More than 2,000 people died in the 6.3 magnitude earthquake that shook the Herat region of western Afghanistan on Saturday, the Taliban government reported on Sunday, as rescuers searched for survivors in devastated villages.
The earthquake, which shook regions located 30 kilometers northwest of the city of Herat, was followed by eight strong aftershocks.
«2,053 martyrs have died in 13 locations. 1,240 people were injured. 1,320 houses have been completely destroyed,” Taliban government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid wrote on the social network X, formerly known as Twitter, citing the disaster management agency.
The death toll increased sharply this Sunday, since a little earlier the authorities had given a death toll of more than 1,000.
In the village of Sarboland, located in the Zinda Jan district, an area close to the epicenter, an AFP journalist confirmed that dozens of houses were destroyed.
Groups of men searched with shovels for survivors among the rubble of the homes, while women and children waited in the open among the houses that were razed, with their belongings exposed to the wind.
"As soon as the first tremor hit, all the houses collapsed," said Bashir Ahmad, 42. «Those who were inside the houses were buried. There are families we don't have news about," he added.
"Everything turned into sand"
«We returned home and saw that there was nothing left. "Everything had turned into sand," she explained, adding that they found about 30 bodies.
«At the moment, we have nothing. No blankets or anything. “We are abandoned,” added this 32-year-old man.
The World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Saturday that "the number of victims is expected to increase as search and rescue operations continue."
In Herat, considered the cultural capital of Afghanistan, residents and merchants took to the streets in panic as they felt the earth move.
Herat, 120 km east of the border with Iran, is the capital of the province of the same name, where about 1.9 million people live according to World Bank data from 2019.
Afghanistan suffers frequent earthquakes, especially in the Hindu Kush mountain range, near the junction between the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates.
In June 2022, a magnitude 5.9 earthquake killed more than 1,000 people and left tens of thousands homeless in the impoverished province of Paktika in the southeast of the country.
And last March, a magnitude 6.5 earthquake killed 13 people in Afghanistan and Pakistan, near the northeastern city of Jurm.
Afghanistan is already mired in a serious humanitarian crisis, following the return to power of the Taliban in 2021 and the consequent withdrawal of international aid.