Death toll in Afghan quakes over 2,000; more than 1,000 houses fully damaged

Afghan residents clear debris from a damaged house after earthquake in Sarbuland village of Zendeh Jan district of Herat province on Saturday. Photo: AFP/Mohsen KARIMI

Kabul: The death toll from a series of powerful earthquakes in western Afghanistan rose drastically again on Sunday to more than 2,000, a government spokesman said.

"2,053 martyrs were killed in 13 villages. 1,240 people are injured. 1,320 houses were completely destroyed," Taliban government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid wrote on social media site X, formerly Twitter, citing the disaster management agency.

Afghan children rest under a blanket beside damaged houses after earthquake in Sarbuland village of Zendeh Jan district of Herat province on Saturday. Photo: AFP/Mohsen KARIMI

According to an update from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 465 houses had been destroyed and a further 135 were damaged. Partners and local authorities anticipate the number of casualties to increase as search and rescue efforts continue amid reports that some people may be trapped under collapsed buildings, the UN said. Disaster authority spokesperson Mohammad Abdullah Jan said four villages in the Zenda Jan district in Herat province bore the brunt of the quake and aftershocks.

The United States Geological Survey said the quake's epicentre was about 40 kilometres (25 miles) northwest of Herat city. It was followed by three very strong aftershocks, measuring magnitude 6.3, 5.9 and 5.5, as well as lesser shocks. At least five strong tremors struck the city around noon, Herat city resident Abdul Shakor Samadi said.

All people are out of their homes, Samadi said. Houses, offices and shops are all empty and there are fears of more earthquakes. My family and I were inside our home, I felt the quake. His family began shouting and ran outside, afraid to return indoors.

The World Health Organization in Afghanistan said it dispatched 12 ambulance cars to Zenda Jan to evacuate casualties to hospitals. As deaths & casualties from the earthquake continue to be reported, teams are in hospitals assisting treatment of wounded & assessing additional needs, the UN agency said on X, formerly known as Twitter. WHO-supported ambulances are transporting those affected, most of them women and children.

Telephone connections went down in Herat, making it hard to get details from affected areas. Videos on social media showed hundreds of people in the streets outside their homes and offices in Herat city. Herat province borders Iran.

People gather on the streets in Herat following the earthquake on Saturday. Photo: AFP

The quake also was felt in the nearby Afghan provinces of Farah and Badghis, according to local media reports. Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban-appointed deputy prime minister for economic affairs, expressed his condolences to the dead and injured in Herat and Badghis.

The Taliban urged local organisations to reach earthquake-hit areas as soon as possible to help take the injured to hospital, provide shelter for the homeless, and deliver food to survivors. They said security agencies should use all their resources and facilities to rescue people trapped under debris. We ask our wealthy compatriots to give any possible cooperation and help to our afflicted brothers, the Taliban said on X.

In June 2022, a powerful earthquake struck a rugged, mountainous region of eastern Afghanistan, flattening stone and mud-brick homes. The quake was Afghanistan's deadliest in two decades, killing at least 1,000 people and injuring about 1,500.

(With inputs from Reuters, AFP)

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