In a tragic turn of events, a series of powerful earthquakes has struck western Afghanistan, leaving a trail of devastation in their wake. The death toll has surged past 2,000, with rescue operations working tirelessly to locate survivors amidst the ruins of razed villages.
The initial jolt, registering at magnitude 6.3, and subsequent eight strong aftershocks, shook hard-to-reach areas located approximately 30 kilometers northwest of Herat, the provincial capital. These seismic events resulted in the collapse of rural homes and sent city residents into a state of panic, prompting them to flood the streets.
Deputy government spokesman Bilal Karimi expressed the grim reality, stating, “Unfortunately, the casualties are practically very high.” He confirmed that the death toll had exceeded 1,000 people, emphasizing that the final figures were yet to be determined.
As night fell on Sarboland village in the Zinda Jan district, an AFP reporter witnessed the harrowing scene of dozens of homes reduced to rubble near the earthquake’s epicenter. Men labored to clear the debris while women and children sought refuge in the open, with destroyed homes bearing witness to personal belongings fluttering in the unforgiving wind.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that over 600 houses were either destroyed or partially damaged across at least 12 villages in Herat province, affecting around 4,200 people. Bashir Ahmad, a 42-year-old survivor, recounted the horrors of the disaster, saying, “In the very first shake, all the houses collapsed,” and added, “There are families we have heard no news from.”
Nek Mohammad, another survivor, described how everything turned to sand, leaving them with nothing. He recounted the recovery of approximately 30 bodies and the dire circumstances in which they found themselves.
The WHO cautioned that the number of casualties was expected to rise as search and rescue operations continued in the affected areas.
While Herat city witnessed a mass exodus of residents fleeing their homes, there were relatively few reports of casualties within the metropolitan area. Afghanistan, already grappling with a dire humanitarian crisis, has faced the withdrawal of foreign aid following the Taliban’s return to power in 2021. Herat province, in particular, has been severely affected by a prolonged drought, compounding the challenges faced by its agricultural communities.
Afghanistan is no stranger to earthquakes, often experiencing seismic activity due to its proximity to the Hindu Kush mountain range, situated at the junction of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates. Last year, in June, the nation endured another devastating earthquake, registering at 5.9 magnitude, which resulted in over 1,000 fatalities and left tens of thousands homeless in the impoverished province of Paktika.
Sources By Agencies