The toll of lives lost in the aftermath of a series of earthquakes in the remote western reaches of Afghanistan surged dramatically to 2,053 on Sunday, while an additional 9,240 individuals suffered injuries as rescue operations unfolded in the region, as reported by the wire service Reuters.
Regrettably, the casualty count has reached an alarming level, as stated by Deputy Government Spokesman Bilal Karimi early on Sunday, as the true extent of the devastation became apparent.
“The death toll stands at over 1,000 people. We are awaiting the final figures,” he conveyed to AFP.
In the wake of the calamity’s escalating scope, rescuers are diligently searching for victims in the wreckage caused by the earthquake that ravaged homes in western Afghanistan, an area that previously reported only 120 casualties.
The seismic event, with a magnitude of 6.3, unleashed eight powerful aftershocks, striking fear into city-dwellers and causing rural homes to crumble, situated 30 kilometers northwest of Herat.
Late on Saturday, Herat’s Disaster Management Head, Mosa Ashari, informed AFP that around 120 fatalities had been documented, along with over 1,000 injured, including women, children, and elderly citizens.
Afghanistan’s National Disaster Authority spokesperson anticipates a further surge in the death toll.
In the Sarboland village of Zinda Jan district, as night descended, numerous homes lay in ruins near the epicenter of the tremors, which shook the region for more than five harrowing hours.
Men toiled to clear heaps of fallen masonry, while women and children sought refuge in the open, their devastated homes bearing witness to personal belongings fluttering in the unforgiving wind.
According to Afghan media, a staggering 1,329 homes lay in ruins across the affected areas.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) disclosed that over 600 residences were either entirely destroyed or partially damaged across at least 12 villages in Herat province, affecting 4,200 individuals, as reported by AFP.
Bashir Ahmad, a 42-year-old local resident, recounted, “In the very first tremor, all the houses collapsed. Those who were inside the houses were buried. There are families we have heard no news from.”
The WHO indicated late on Saturday that the casualty count is anticipated to rise further, as search and rescue missions continue.
In Herat city, residents hastily vacated their homes, and schools, hospitals, and offices were evacuated at the onset of the initial earthquake. Fortunately, there were relatively few reports of casualties in the metropolitan area.
Afghanistan is already grappling with a dire humanitarian crisis, exacerbated by the withdrawal of foreign aid following the return of the Taliban to power in 2021. Herat province, home to 1.9 million people on Iran’s border, has been particularly hard-hit by a severe drought, affecting numerous agricultural communities.
Afghanistan is no stranger to earthquakes, particularly in the Hindu Kush mountain range. In June, a 5.9-magnitude quake claimed over 1,000 lives and left tens of thousands homeless in the impoverished province of Paktika, marking the deadliest earthquake in Afghanistan in nearly a quarter of a century.