On Saturday, a powerful earthquake with a magnitude of 6.3 struck Afghanistan, resulting in the reported death of over 2,000 people. The hardest-hit area was near Herat, a densely populated region. The initial quake was followed by several aftershocks of magnitudes 6.3, 5.9, and 5.5, alongside smaller tremors.
In the aftermath of the earthquake, rescue workers and volunteers tirelessly searched through the rubble using shovels and their bare hands in an attempt to rescue survivors. The scene was grueling, with entire villages leveled and bodies trapped under collapsed houses. Locals, lacking the necessary tools, anxiously waited for assistance. The extent of the destruction was evident as victims, covered in dust, were found trapped beneath the wreckage.
Tragically, the natural disaster also resulted in the destruction of at least 1,300 homes, further exacerbating the crisis. Witness accounts revealed the profound shock experienced by survivors, with some rendered speechless and others overwhelmed by tears and shouts of distress. Photographer Omid Haqjoo, who visited four affected villages, reflected on the profound trauma experienced by the communities.
Official representatives from the Taliban government expressed their grief, acknowledging the grim possibility that this earthquake might be the deadliest the country has seen in two decades. The memory of a similar earthquake that took place in June 2022, claiming the lives of approximately 1,000 Afghan people, still lingers fresh in their minds.
Amidst the chaos and devastation, tales of hope and resilience emerged. People in Herat managed to free a baby girl from the wreckage. Buried up to her neck in debris, the child’s mother tirelessly cradled her, serving as a lifeline until rescuers arrived. The fate of the mother remains unclear.
However, the immediate challenges faced by rescue and relief efforts highlight the significant gaps in Afghanistan’s disaster management capacity. Salma Ben Aissa, the committee’s country director for Afghanistan, emphasized the limitations of existing resources in adequately addressing the dire situation. As the hours went by, the death toll continued to rise steadily.
The magnitude of this earthquake’s impact on Afghanistan cannot be understated. With thousands of lives lost and entire communities devastated, the nation grapples with the profound sorrow and struggles to come to terms with the vast loss. The road to recovery will undoubtedly be a long and arduous one, requiring the collective efforts of national and international entities alike.