An Iranian rescue worker gives a dog water as they help people searching for the victims amid rubble of destroyed houses after an earthquake in Zinda Jan district of Herat, Afghanistan, 09 October 2023. EFE/EPA/SAMIULLAH POPAL

Afghanistan estimates more than “4,500 victims” killed and injured in earthquake

Almar Khplwak

Herat, Afghanistan, Oct 9 (EFE).- The de facto government of the Taliban estimated Monday “4,500 victims of the earthquake”, between dead and wounded, but said there is still no certainty of the total number of dead and asked for help for this “great emergency.”

“The exact number of dead and wounded is difficult to point out, as 35 teams are working there, approximately there have been over 4,500 dead and wounded, which will change,” said in a press conference in Herat province the spokesman for the Ministry of Disaster Management of the Taliban government, Mullah Janan Sayeq.

An estimated 2,400 people have been killed and more than 2,000 have been injured.

The situation in the province, in the west of the country, is one of “great emergency”, said the authorities, who lack the resources to deal with the disaster, which devastated at least a dozen villages on Saturday.

So far, citizens, volunteers and survivors have had to dig through the rubble with shovels and fingernails, looking for traces of clothing or odd objects that might help them guess the presence of bodies or people still alive in the villages now turned into mountains of earth and debris.

“The situation is very urgent in the area, and people need all kinds of assistance,” Sayeq said.

The government has limited machinery and technology for rescue operations, and despite requests for assistance, it has not yet been able to provide the people with the necessary equipment to carry out rescue operations.

The Taliban’s international isolation has complicated the delivery of aid.

Iran has offered to send about 20 rescue teams and two sniffer dogs for the operations, while shipments from a few other nations have been limited to medicine, food and emergency kits.

The number of casualties is constantly changing, Sayeq said, “due to large numbers of wiped villages the people themselves can’t work anymore.”

Responding to people’s complaints about the lack of basic services, including shelter, water and food, the official said: “Still there are a lot of people under the rubble, and our priority is to bring people out of the dust.”

The spokesman urged all humanitarian organizations to reach out and help with rescue efforts.

“I request all the humanitarian organizations to provide help as 20 villages were completely destroyed and all the people need help with food, nonfood, and shelter there,” the official admitted.

Afghanistan experienced at least seven earthquakes on Saturday. The first and most intense occurred at 12:11 a.m. (+5:30 GMT) with a magnitude of 6.3, at a depth of 14 kilometers and at a distance of 33 kilometers from the town of Zindah Jan in Herat province, according to the United States Geological Survey.

Three other earthquakes with a magnitude of up to 5.1 shook the same region on Monday as rescue efforts were underway.

Even in Herat, the capital of the province of the same name, people have decided to sleep in the streets for fear of another calamity.

This is the third deadliest earthquake in Afghanistan since 1998 and the worst tragedy the Taliban have had to face since they took control of Afghanistan in August 2021, with no access to the financial system and international reserves. EFE

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