Deadly Earthquakes in Afghanistan Claim Over 2,000 Lives

Deadly Earthquakes in Afghanistan Claim Over 2,000 Lives
Afghan men search for victims after an earthquake in Zenda Jan district in Herat province, of western Afghanistan, Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023.(AP Photo/Omid Haqjoo

A series of powerful earthquakes and subsequent aftershocks in western Afghanistan have resulted in the death of over 2,000 people, marking it as one of the deadliest seismic events in the nation’s history.

Taliban Confirms Rising Death Toll

Abdul Wahid Rayan, spokesperson at the Ministry of Information and Culture, confirmed the escalating death toll on Sunday, stating that the number is greater than initially reported. He elaborated that six villages have been obliterated, with hundreds of residents trapped under debris.

“I felt the quake,” recounted Herat city resident Abdul Shakor Samadi. “All people are out of their homes. Houses, offices, and shops are all empty, and there are fears of more earthquakes.”

Epicenter Near Dense Population

The United States Geological Survey identified the quake’s epicenter approximately 40 kilometers northwest of Herat city, Afghanistan’s fourth-largest metropolis. The main earthquake, registering at a magnitude of 6.3, was succeeded by three substantial aftershocks, measuring at magnitudes of 6.3, 5.9, and 5.5 respectively.

Disaster authority spokesperson Mohammad Abdullah Jan highlighted the Zenda Jan district in Herat province, which borders Iran, as bearing the most significant impact from the earthquake and its aftershocks.

Global Response

Numerous international agencies and governments have extended their condolences and offers of support to Afghanistan in this dire time.

The World Health Organization in Afghanistan has dispatched 12 ambulance cars to Zenda Jan to aid in casualty evacuation. “As deaths & casualties from the earthquake continue to be reported, teams are in hospitals assisting treatment of wounded & assessing additional needs,” the UN agency announced on X, the formerly named Twitter platform.

Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Ministry expressed its sorrow over the calamity and communicated its readiness to support the recovery initiative. Additionally, China’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Zhao Xing, asserted that his government and associated charitable institutions are prepared to extend all necessary assistance.

Furthermore, Afghan cricket celebrity Rashid Khan proclaimed his intention to donate all his Cricket World Cup fees to aid earthquake survivors in Herat.

People sit in earthquake rubble in the village of Sarbuland in Afghanistan’s Herat province on Saturday. (Mohsen Karimi/AFP/Getty Images)

Hospitals Overwhelmed

The healthcare infrastructure, already reeling from the economic downturn, was further strained due to the sudden influx of injured patients. Dr. Arif Jalali Herat, the provincial’s regional director, indicated the immense pressure on medical facilities, emphasizing the urgency of the situation.

Herat health department official Dr. Danish reported to Reuters, “More than 200 dead had been brought to various hospitals… most of them were women and children.”

Calls for Immediate Aid

Given the magnitude of the disaster, there’s a pressing need for essential supplies, including food, drinking water, medicine, clothes, and tents.

Suhail Shaheen, head of the Taliban’s political office in Qatar, conveyed this urgency in a message to journalists. Concurrently, the Taliban administration has mobilized local organizations, urging them to provide immediate relief to the affected regions.

Historical Context

This recent devastation follows a destructive earthquake in June 2022 that affected parts of eastern Afghanistan, resulting in over 1,000 casualties. The current earthquakes and aftershocks are reminiscent of the tragedy, emphasizing the nation’s vulnerability to seismic activity.