Multiple quakes leave dozens of people dead in western Afghanistan

Two powerful 6.3-magnitude earthquakes struck western Afghanistan on Saturday, followed by multiple aftershocks, resulting in numerous casualties and widespread destruction, according to the Taliban’s national disaster authority.

Initial reports from the United Nations suggested a preliminary death toll of 320, but the figure is still undergoing verification.

Taliban officials in Herat estimated that around 100 people lost their lives, with approximately 500 individuals injured, as reported by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The seismic events primarily impacted four villages in the Zenda Jan district of Herat province, with dozens of houses sustaining damage.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) reported both earthquakes, with a magnitude of 6.3. The epicenter was located 40 kilometers (24.8 miles) northwest of Herat city. Subsequently, an aftershock measuring 5.5 magnitude followed.

Herat residents decided to spend the night under tents over the fear of another earthquake.

The USGS website displayed a map indicating seven earthquakes in the region. Herat city resident Abdul Shakor Samadi described experiencing at least five powerful earthquakes around noon.

“People have evacuated their homes,” Samadi recounted. “Houses, offices, and shops are all empty, and there is an apprehension of more earthquakes. My family and I were inside our home when I felt the quake.” In a state of panic, they hurried outside, reluctant to return indoors.

The World Health Organization (WHO) in Afghanistan promptly dispatched 12 ambulance cars to Zenda Jan to transport casualties to hospitals.

“As deaths and casualties from the earthquake continue to be reported, teams are in hospitals assisting treatment of wounded and assessing additional needs,” the U.N. agency conveyed on social media. “WHO-supported ambulances are transporting those affected, most of them women and children.”

Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s deputy chief minister for economic affairs, conveyed his condolences to the victims of Herat and Badghis.

The Taliban issued an appeal to local organizations to swiftly reach the earthquake-affected areas, with the objective of evacuating the injured to hospitals, providing shelter for those displaced, and delivering food to survivors. They emphasized the need for security agencies to utilize all available resources and facilities to rescue individuals trapped beneath debris.

“We ask our fellow citizens who are financially able to provide any possible assistance and support to our afflicted brothers,” the Taliban stated on social media.

The incidents happened after a deadly earthquake in Paktika province in the east of the country in June 2022, leaving over 1,000 dead.