A powerful earthquake with a magnitude of 6.3 hit western Afghanistan on Sunday, causing significant destruction in the Herat province. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) confirmed the earthquake and stated that its epicenter was located 34 kilometers outside the provincial capital of Herat. The earthquake struck at a depth of approximately eight kilometers and was followed by a 5.5 magnitude aftershock 20 minutes later.
The recent earthquake adds to the series of tremors that have been affecting the Herat province, resulting in numerous casualties and the destruction of entire villages. According to Taliban officials, about 2,000 people lost their lives in earthquakes in the same region earlier in the week. The majority of those who perished were women and children, as they are often at home during the day, looking after the household and caring for children. UNICEF highlighted the vulnerability of women and children in such disasters, stating that they are the most at risk when structures collapse.
International humanitarian organizations have been working to provide assistance in the affected areas. Save the Children reported that four people were confirmed dead and 153 had sought treatment at the regional hospital in Herat. Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF) Afghanistan Chief Yahya Kalilah informed AFP that the casualty numbers could potentially be lower compared to previous earthquakes because many people in the area had taken precautions and were already sleeping outside in tents.
Despite these efforts, there are concerns that the casualty numbers from Sunday’s earthquake might rise. Mohammad Zahir Noorzai, the head of the emergency relief team in Herat province, explained that rescue workers have not yet reached all the affected areas, indicating that the full extent of the damage and loss of life is still unknown.
There has been widespread devastation in the Baloch area of Rabat Sangi in the Herat province. Several villages have been completely destroyed, leaving communities in a state of shock and despair. Mud-brick homes, schools, clinics, and other essential facilities have been flattened. In the rural Zenda Jan district alone, at least six villages were completely destroyed.
The damage caused by the earthquakes has left the affected population traumatized and fearful. Many individuals have lost their homes and personal belongings, and the psychological impact is significant. The fear of further tremors and the crumbling of structures have created an atmosphere of anxiety and uncertainty. Chief Kalilha expressed this sentiment, stating, “People are not feeling safe. I will assure you 100%, no one will sleep in their house.”
Efforts to reach and assist those affected by the earthquakes are ongoing, but the challenges are immense. The priority is to provide immediate medical aid and shelter to those in need. Temporary shelters and tents are being set up to accommodate residents who have lost their homes. Additionally, emergency relief teams are working tirelessly to assess the extent of the damage and provide support to affected communities.
The situation in the Herat province remains critical, and it is crucial that aid and support continue to pour in. The affected population not only requires immediate assistance but also long-term support to rebuild their lives and communities. The resilience of the Afghan people, combined with the collaboration and assistance of international organizations, can help mitigate the devastating impact of these natural disasters and provide hope for a better future.