More than 2,000 people died in a violent earthquake that struck Afghanistan. Saturday in western Afghanistan, causing enormous damage, according to a new official report communicated Sunday.
The 6.3 magnitude earthquake, which struck areas 30 kilometers northwest of the city of Herat on Saturday, was followed by eight strong aftershocks.
“2,053 martyrs died in 13 villages. 1,240 people were injured. 1,320 houses were completely destroyed,” Taliban government spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid wrote on disasters.
In the village of Sarboland in the Zinda Jan district, dozens of houses were destroyed, an AFP journalist noted at nightfall on Saturday.
Afghan woman and children sleep on blankets after the earthquake in the village of Sarbuland in the Zendeh Jan district of Herat province, October 7, 2023 © AFP – Mohsen KARIMI
Men cleared rubble while that women and children were waiting outside, among the debris.
“Unfortunately, the number of victims is very high,” Bilal Karimi, deputy spokesperson for the Taliban government, told AFP. “We are waiting to see the final figures,” he continued.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 600 houses have been destroyed or partially damaged in at least twelve villages in the province of Herat. In total, 4,200 people were affected in one way or another by the earthquake, according to the same source.
“From the first shock, all the houses collapsed,” says Bashir Ahmad, 42. “Those who were inside the houses were buried. There are families of whom we have no news,” he adds.
– “Abandoned with our martyrs” –
Nek Mohammad was at work when the first tremor hit Afghanistan around 11:00 a.m. local time (6:30 a.m. GMT).
“We returned home and found that there was nothing left. Everything had turned to sand,” he explains, adding that around 30 bodies were found.
Afghans clear debris from a house destroyed by the earthquake in the village of Sarbuland in Zendeh Jan district in Herat province, October 7, 2023 © AFP – Mohsen KARIMI
“For the moment, we have nothing. No blankets or anything else. We are abandoned with our martyrs,” adds this 32-year-old man.
On Saturday, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that “the number of casualties is expected to rise as search and rescue operations continue.”
In Herat, considered the cultural capital of Afghanistan, many residents and traders fled buildings at the first tremor.
Herat province, which has a population of 1.9 million according to World Bank data, has also been hit by drought for years, crippling many already struggling farming communities.
< p>Afghanistan frequently experiences earthquakes, particularly in the Hindu Kush mountain range, close to where the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates meet.
In June 2022, a magnitude 5.9 earthquake, the deadliest to date in Afghanistan in nearly 25 years, left more than a thousand dead and tens of thousands more homeless people in the poor province of Paktika (southeast).
And last March, a 6.5 magnitude earthquake killed 13 people in Afghanistan and Pakistan, near the locality of Jurm, in the north-east of the country.
Afghanistan is also already in the grip of a severe humanitarian crisis, since the return to power of the Taliban in 2021 and the withdrawal of international aid which followed.
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