Death toll from Afghanistan earthquakes shoots past 2,000

The death toll following a series of earthquakes in remote western Afghanistan drastically climbed to 2,053 on Sunday while 9,240 others were injured as rescue efforts proceeded in the area, wire service Reuters reported.

"Unfortunately, the casualties are practically very high," deputy government spokesman Bilal Karimi said early Sunday, as the extent of the damage became clear.

"The death toll is more than 1,000 people. We are waiting to see how the final figures will turn out," he told AFP.

As the scale of the disaster becomes obvious, the death toll from the earthquake that destroyed homes in western Afghanistan, which previously stood at 120, is being looked for by rescuers.

Eight powerful aftershocks from the magnitude 6.3 earthquake that shook the region 30 kilometres northwest of Herat caused rural homes to collapse and terrified city people to flee into the streets.

Herat disaster management head Mosa Ashari told AFP late Saturday there had been "about 120" fatalities reported and "more than 1,000 injured women, children, and old citizens".

A spokesman for Afghanistan's National Disaster Authority said they expect the death toll "to rise very high".

As night fell in Sarboland village of Zinda Jan district, dozens of homes were razed to the ground near the epicentre of the quakes, which shook the area for more than five hours.

Men shovelled through piles of crumbled masonry as women and children waited in the open, with gutted homes displaying personal belongings flapping in the harsh wind.

According to Afghan media, 1,329 homes were destroyed across the affected areas.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that over 600 houses were destroyed or partially damaged across at least 12 villages in Herat province, affecting 4,200, according to AFP.

"In the very first shake all the houses collapsed," said 42-year-old local Bashir Ahmad. "Those who were inside the houses were buried," he said. "There are families we have heard no news from."

The WHO said late Saturday "the number of casualties is expected to rise as search and rescue operations are ongoing".

In Herat city, residents fled their homes and schools, hospitals and offices evacuated when the first quake was felt. There were few reports of casualties in the metropolitan area, however.

Afghanistan is already suffering in the grip of a dire humanitarian crisis, with the widespread withdrawal of foreign aid following the Taliban's return to power in 2021.

Herat province, home to 1.9 million people on Iran's border, has been severely affected by a drought, affecting many agricultural communities.

Afghanistan is frequently hit by earthquakes, particularly in the Hindu Kush mountain range. In June, a 5.9-magnitude quake killed over 1,000 people and left tens of thousands homeless in the impoverished province of Paktika, the deadliest in Afghanistan in nearly a quarter of a century.


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