Villagers swap houses for tents as aftershocks continue to rock Herat

People across Herat province are camping out on open land, far from their villages, in fear of aftershocks that are still jolting the province three days after a 6.3 magnitude earthquake killed over 2,400 people and destroyed countless homes.

Immediately after Saturday’s deadly quake, a string of aftershocks hit the province, including another 6.3 magnitude tremblor. Even on Tuesday, aftershocks were felt. One measured 5.1 magnitude.

Since Saturday, many survivors have been living in tents, despite falling temperatures, on open stretches of land. Amu reached out to some of them who left their homes and set up camp 15km from the provincial capital, Herat city.

One Herat resident Zahra said she left her house after one too many aftershocks on Saturday. “We have been here since the earthquake on the first night, we all rushed up and went out. We didn’t have a blanket or anything with us.”

Parwana, another Herat resident, said: “It has been three nights since we left our houses. Neither I nor my children have anything to wear. We are afraid of the mud-made walls.”

Traditional village houses in Afghanistan are made of mud and stone and are often not strong enough to withstand severe weather or earthquakes.

Sultan, another resident, spoke about his problems and said: “The earthquakes continue, the people lack facilities, they come to check their houses during the day, but everyone comes out to open areas at night. They also face a lack of access to food and water.”

The residents stated that they have experienced more than 20 aftershocks and that they are in a very vulnerable situation.

“Tonight is our fourth night. We left our houses. There were 26 small and major aftershocks of the earthquake,” said Faizullah, another local resident.

“We have been living outside for the past several nights. The houses are made of mud. The earthquake has made life for everyone difficult,” said Noor Gul, another vulnerable resident.

Zarmina, 27, lived in the Zindajan district of Herat – the worst hit of all areas. She lost two of her family members in Saturday’s earthquake. Zarimina told of her heartache and said her life no longer has any meaning and that she’s lost all hope.

“Our rooms collapsed on us. We sustained two martyrs from our family. My mother-in-law is still in the hospital. I came back from the hospital in the morning. Someone took my tent. I have not received any other assistance yet,” she said.

At 11:11 am on Saturday, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake rocked Zindajan district in Herat, completely destroying at least 20 villages.

The Taliban have said over 2,400 people died in the quake and more than 2,000 were injured.