HERAT, AFGHANISTAN- As rescuers searched for survivors among the ruins of villages that had been completely destroyed, the death toll from a string of earthquakes in western Afghanistan suddenly increased to over 1, 000.
The magnitude 6.3 earthquake on Saturday jolted hard-to-reach areas 30 kilometers( 19 miles ) northwest of Herat’s provincial capital, toppling rural homes and sending terrified city dwellers running into the streets. It was followed by eight powerful aftershocks.
As the extent of the damage became apparent early on Sunday, deputy government spokesman Bilal Karimi said,” Unfortunately, the casualties are practically very high.”
More than 1,000 people have died as a result. He told AFP,” We’re waiting to see how the final numbers turn out.
An AFP reporter observed dozens of homes destroyed close to the epicenter of the earthquakes, which shook the area for more than five hours, as night fell on Saturday in the Sarboland village of Zinda Jan district.
Women and children waited outside while men shoveled through piles of crumbling masonry. Gutted homes flailed their personal belongings in the blustery wind.
In at least 12 villages in Herat province, according to the World Health Organization( WHO ), more than 600 homes were completely destroyed or partially damaged, affecting 4,200 people.
All the houses collapsed in the first shake, according to 42-year-old Bashir Ahmad.
He declared that” those who were inside the houses were buried.” ” There are families whose news we haven’t heard.”
Everything became sand.
At around 11:00 am( 0630 GMT ), Nek Mohammad claimed to be at work when the first earthquake occurred.
” When we got home, we discovered that nothing was left. The 32-year-old added that about 30 bodies had been found and that everything had turned to sand.
” We have nothing as of yet.” Nothing else, not even blankets. As night fell, he said,” We are here left out at night with our martyrs.
Late on Saturday, according to the WHO,” as search and rescue operations continue, the number of casualties is anticipated to increase.”
When the first earthquake was felt, residents of Herat city fled their homes, schools, hospitals, and offices. However, there weren’t many reports of casualties in the city.
With the widespread withdrawal of foreign aid following the Taliban’s takeover in 2021, Afghanistan is already experiencing a severe humanitarian crisis.
A year-long drought that has crippled many already struggling agricultural communities has also struck Herat province, which is home to about 1.9 million people on the Iranian border.
The Hindu Kush mountain range, which is close to the confluence of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates, is particularly vulnerable to earthquakes in Afghanistan.
A 5.9 magnitude earthquake that struck the impoverished province of Paktika in June of last year killed more than 1, 000 people and left tens of thousands homeless. The earthquake was the deadliest in Afghanistan in almost 25 years.