In a tragic turn of events, a powerful earthquake followed by intense aftershocks has resulted in the loss of more than 100 lives in western Afghanistan. Local authorities report that the death toll continues to climb, while the United Nations warns that the final count could be higher as search and rescue operations persist.
The earthquake, measuring a magnitude of 6.3, struck approximately 40 kilometers (24 miles) west of Herat city at around 11 a.m. on Saturday (06:30 GMT). Strong aftershocks were felt in the adjacent Badghis and Farah provinces. The Afghan Ministry of Defence, in a statement on social media platform X (formerly known as Twitter), confirmed the tragic toll, revealing that over 100 people lost their lives, and more than 500 sustained injuries.
However, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported unconfirmed estimates that the death toll could be as high as 320. OCHA noted that the number of casualties is expected to increase as search and rescue operations continue, with fears that some individuals may still be trapped beneath collapsed buildings.
The epicenter of the earthquake, according to the United States Geological Survey, was situated approximately 40 kilometers northwest of Herat city. Following the initial tremor, three powerful aftershocks measuring magnitudes of 6.3, 5.9, and 5.5, as well as several lesser shocks, further rattled the affected region.
Mohammad Abdullah Jan
Mohammad Abdullah Jan, a spokesperson for the disaster authority, reported that the earthquake and subsequent aftershocks inflicted damage on homes in four villages within the Zenda Jan district of Herat province. Additionally, there have been reports of widespread structural damage to houses in the Farah and Badghis provinces.
The World Health Organization in Afghanistan swiftly responded by dispatching 12 ambulances to Zenda Jan to transport casualties to hospitals. They reported a significant number of women and children among the affected individuals.
Abdul Ghani Baradar, the deputy prime minister for economic affairs appointed by the Taliban, expressed his condolences to the victims in Herat and Badghis. The Taliban urged local organizations to promptly reach the earthquake-hit areas to assist with evacuating the injured, providing shelter for the displaced, and delivering essential food supplies to survivors. They called upon security agencies to employ all available resources and facilities in rescue efforts to free individuals trapped under the rubble.
This tragic incident recalls a devastating earthquake in June 2022, which struck a rugged, mountainous region in eastern Afghanistan. The earlier quake, the deadliest in Afghanistan in two decades, claimed the lives of at least 1,000 people and left approximately 1,500 others injured.