Sat. May 18th, 2024

The death toll from a powerful earthquake in western Afghanistan has surpassed 1,000, as rescuers work to find survivors amidst the ruins of destroyed villages. The magnitude 6.3 quake, followed by multiple strong aftershocks, struck remote areas located about 30 km northwest of the provincial capital of Herat. The temblor caused the collapse of numerous rural homes and sent residents in cities into panic, spilling onto the streets. Bilal Karimi, the deputy government spokesman, expressed deep concern over the high number of casualties and stated that the death toll has exceeded 1,000, with the expectation that the final figures will be much higher. At Sarboland village in the Zinda Jan district, dozens of houses were found in ruins and people were seen sifting through the debris, while women and children sought shelter outside. The World Health Organization reported that a minimum of 12 villages in Herat province were affected, resulting in over 600 houses being completely destroyed or partially damaged and impacting around 4,200 people. Bashir Ahmad, a local resident, shared that all the houses collapsed during the initial shake, leading to the burial of those inside, and he expressed concern for families they hadn’t heard from. Another survivor, Nek Mohammad, described returning home after work to find that everything had turned to sand, with around 30 bodies already recovered. The WHO warned that the casualty count is expected to rise as rescue operations continue. In Herat city, residents fled their homes and buildings were evacuated, but there have been few reports of casualties in the urban area. The earthquake adds to Afghanistan’s existing humanitarian crisis, exacerbated by the withdrawal of foreign aid following the Taliban’s return to power in 2021. Herat province has also been grappling with a prolonged drought, further burdening the already struggling agricultural communities in the region. Afghanistan frequently experiences earthquakes, especially in the Hindu Kush mountain range, where the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates converge. One year ago, a 5.9-magnitude quake hit the impoverished province of Paktika, resulting in the deaths of more than 1,000 people and leaving tens of thousands homeless.

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