Herat earthquake survivors await swift reconstruction of homes as winter looms

Siyah Aab Village, located in the heart of Zinda Jan district in Herat Province, Afghanistan, remains a site of resilience as survivors of the devastating earthquakes that struck on October 7 await the completion of reconstruction efforts.

Tents still house hundreds of families, but the promise of new shelters is on the horizon as reconstruction work gains momentum.

The October earthquakes in the western Afghan province of Herat left a trail of destruction, reducing homes to rubble, claiming the lives of over 2,000 people, and displacing tens of thousands. In the broader Zinda Jan district, where a total of 3,000 houses were under construction, Siyah Aab village bore the brunt with approximately 250 houses flattened. In response, around 1,500 locals lent their support, working tirelessly day and night to aid in the rebuilding efforts.

Financial support primarily comes from Afghan business leaders, supplemented by donations collected from various provinces. Nesar Ahmad, a survivor of the earthquake, expressed gratitude for the collective efforts, stating, “They worked hard day and night so that we could be transferred from the tents to our new houses.”

However, Bibi Gul, another survivor, voiced the collective hope that authorities would take charge of the rebuilding process to expedite the transition to new homes. “We expect the authorities to complete the construction, let us move to our new houses, and assist us with fuel for heating during the winter so that we can get back to a normal life,” she said as quoted by CGTN.

With an eye on the approaching winter, residents are anxious about the completion timeline, especially considering the cold and challenging weather conditions. Jalil Ahmad, a survivor, highlighted the recent challenges faced by the village, stating, “A week ago, heavy rain started, and we were washed out by the flash floods. The rain was steady and our tents were flooded.”

Winter poses a significant obstacle for construction efforts, particularly in this mountainous region where temperatures often drop below freezing. Gul Agha Rahimi, the site engineer, explained, “Winter is going to interrupt our work because this is a mountainous area and it gets too cold. Technically when the temperature is under zero degrees Celsius, we won’t be permitted to carry out construction work.”

The rebuilding initiative is spearheaded by the Taliban and supported by Afghan businesses, with additional sponsorship from national and international organizations.

Quoted by CGTN, Nesar Ahmad Elyas, spokesman for Taliban governor in Herat, said that nearly 3,000 houses are under construction in Zinda Jan District.

He said that construction of some houses is in its initial phase, others are nearly 50 percent completed and 90 percent completed in some other villages.