The death toll is expected to rise as search and rescue efforts continue after the magnitude 6.3 earthquake.
A powerful earthquake followed by strong aftershocks has killed more than 100 people in western Afghanistan, local officials said, as the United Nations warned that the death toll could rise as search and rescue efforts continue.
The 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck 40km (24 miles) west of the city of Herat at about 11am on Saturday (06:30 GMT), with strong aftershocks felt in the neighbouring Badghis and Farah provinces.
The Afghan Ministry of Defence in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, said the tremors killed more than 100 people and injured more than 500.
A situation report from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs added that there were unconfirmed estimates that as many as 320 people had died.
“Partners and local authorities anticipate the number of casualties to increase as search and rescue efforts continue amid reports that some people may be trapped under collapsed buildings,” the OCHA said.
At least 100 people were killed and a further 500 injured in today’s 6.3 magnitude #earthquake in Herat Province. Read more here about ongoing humanitarian response efforts in our latest Flash Update:👇https://t.co/bPOPyh75WO
— OCHA Afghanistan (@OCHAAfg) October 7, 2023
In Herat city, resident Abdul Shakor Samadi said the quake was followed by at least five strong tremors at about noon on Saturday (07:30 GMT).
“All people are out of their homes,” Samadi said. “Houses, offices and shops are all empty and there are fears of more earthquakes. My family and I were inside our home, I felt the quake.”
His family began shouting and ran outside, afraid to return indoors.
The United States Geological Survey said the quake’s epicentre was about 40km northwest of Herat city. It was followed by three very strong aftershocks, measuring magnitude 6.3, 5.9 and 5.5 as well as lesser shocks.
Disaster authority spokesperson Mohammad Abdullah Jan said that the quake and aftershocks damaged homes in four villages in the Zenda Jan district in Herat province. There were also reports of widespread damage to houses in the Farah and Badges provinces.
The World Health Organization in Afghanistan said it dispatched 12 ambulances to Zenda Jan to evacuate casualties to hospitals.
“As deaths & casualties from the earthquake continue to be reported, teams are in hospitals assisting treatment of wounded & assessing additional needs,” the UN agency said on X. “WHO-supported ambulances are transporting those affected, most of them women and children.”
Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban-appointed deputy prime minister for economic affairs, expressed his condolences to the dead and injured in Herat and Badghis.
The Taliban urged local organisations to reach earthquake-hit areas as soon as possible to help take the injured to hospital, provide shelter for the homeless and deliver food to survivors. They said security agencies should use all their resources and facilities to rescue people trapped under debris.
“We ask our wealthy compatriots to give any possible cooperation and help to our afflicted brothers,” the Taliban said on X.
In June 2022, a powerful earthquake struck a rugged, mountainous region of eastern Afghanistan, flattening stone and mud-brick homes. The quake was Afghanistan’s deadliest in two decades, killing at least 1,000 people and injuring about 1,500.