An Afghan refugee removes sewage waste outside his home at their temporary camps on the outskirts of Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan province, Pakistan, 08 October 2023. EFE-EPA/FAYYAZ AHMED

Nearly 2,500 dead as Afghans search for loved ones after devastating quake

Kabul, Oct 8 (EFE).- The death toll from devastating earthquakes in Afghanistan neared 2,500 on Sunday, a day after a series of seven tremors rocked the western province of Herat, said officials.

People affected by an earthquake wait for relief in Herat, Afghanistan, 07 October 2023. EFE-EPA/STRINGER

The initial 6.3-magnitude earthquake, followed by strong aftershocks, left more than 2,000 people injured and caused extensive destruction in the already struggling country, grappling with international sanctions following the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul in August 2021.

Mula Janan Sayeq, spokesperson for the Disaster Management Ministry, told reporters that the death toll had reached 2,400, amid concerns that it might rise further.

Most of the victims hailed from the 13 hardest-hit villages in the quake epicenter of Zindah Jan.

The disaster resulted in the complete destruction of more than 1,300 homes, according to the spokesperson.

Pictures and videos posted on social media channels showed villages in ruins, with residents of the devastated areas using their bare hands to lift rubble from their houses, desperately searching for the bodies of their loved ones.

The earthquake was the third deadliest in Afghanistan since 1998, marking the worst catastrophe the Taliban have encountered since they returned to power.

Their governance has been hampered by a lack of access to the financial system and international reserves.

In response to the disaster, the Taliban government has issued an appeal to charities, business leaders, and affluent citizens of Afghanistan to offer aid to those affected by the earthquake.

The de facto government dispatched at least 10 rescue teams to the area, tasked with searching for survivors beneath the rubble and providing essential relief items such as water, food, and medicine.

Humanitarian organizations, including the World Health Organization and the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS), have also mobilized resources to expedite rescue operations, care for victims, and relocate residents to safer locations.

Saturday witnessed a total of seven tremors in Afghanistan, with the first and fourth being the most powerful, registering at a magnitude of 6.3.

The quakes were centered in the Zindah Jan district, as reported by the United States Geological Survey.

The region experienced six aftershocks, ranging from magnitudes 5.5 to 6.3, within an hour. As residents grappled with fear, two more tremors, measuring 4.8 and 4.9, occurred shortly thereafter.

The quake is one of the three worst the country has suffered since 1998.

It is also the deadliest since the Taliban returned to power in the country more than two years ago, subjecting the country to a precarious situation.

The Taliban administration has found itself isolated from international financial assistance and saddled with the responsibility of managing a public system in a state of collapse.

The catastrophe has added to the multitude of challenges facing Afghanistan, placing enormous strain on a nation already grappling with dire poverty.

Afghanistan is situated within the Hindu Kush mountain range, an area known for its high seismic activity and a common source of earthquakes in the surrounding regions.

Consequently, Afghanistan is highly susceptible to natural disasters, and its vulnerable population and inadequate infrastructure exacerbate the challenges posed by such events.

The country has experienced numerous earthquakes in the past, particularly in the Hindu Kush region.

In June last year, an earthquake of magnitude 5.9 in the eastern Afghan provinces of Paktika and Khost, bordering Pakistan, caused over 1,000 deaths and destroyed hundreds of homes.

More than 100 people died in Afghanistan and over 300 in neighboring Pakistan in October 2015 due to a 7.7-magnitude earthquake that had its epicenter in the far northeast of Afghanistan.

In January last year, 22 people died in a 5.3-magnitude earthquake that struck a rural area of the northwestern Badghis province.

A devastating quake in 1998 in the northern region killed approximately 4,000 people. In May of that year, a tremor hit the area again, resulting in about 5,000 fatalities. EFE