A woman sits beside the rubble of her demolished home as she waits for relief in the earthquake-hit Enjil district of Herat, Afghanistan, 11 October 2023. EFE/EPA/SAMIULLAH POPAL

Most of those killed in Afghanistan earthquakes were women confined at home

Herat, Afghanistan, Oct 11 (EFE).- Women account for most of the victims of the series of earthquakes that have struck western Afghanistan. Many of them were at home due to the trauma of war or because they were prevented by the Taliban regime from going out of the house.

People affected by earthquake salvage their belongings in the earthquake-hit Enjil district of Herat, Afghanistan, 11 October 2023. EFE/EPA/SAMIULLAH POPAL

According to Taliban estimates, more than 4,500 people were killed or injured in a series of earthquakes that destroyed some 20 villages in Herat province.

People affected salvage their belongings in the earthquake-hit Enjil district of Herat, Afghanistan, 11 October 2023. EFE/EPA/SAMIULLAH POPAL

Meanwhile, residents are still digging with their hands searching for bodies.

The last official balance with the precise number of dead was offered last Monday, estimating more than 2,400 dead.

Taliban officials admit that it is very difficult to confirm the total number of dead because many people are still under the rubble.

“To date, more than 90% of the reported dead are children and women,” says a Unicef report, while other accounts suggest that they, and their children, account for at least two-thirds of the victims.

Western Afghanistan was struck at least seven times on Saturday morning, twice with devastating magnitude-6.3 earthquakes.

At the time, many of the men in this rural area dotted with small villages were in the fields working the land, according to testimonies collected by aid workers.

Women, traditionally confined to working in the home and restrained by the Taliban’s rigid interpretation of Islamic law, were at home as they are forbidden to go outside without their husband or a male companion.

The first tremor occurred at 12.11 local time, when locals were preparing for the midday prayer.

Abdul Qayoum’s wife, four daughters and two children died inside their home during last Saturday’s quake, while the 29-year-old migrant worker was in Kabul dealing with his travel documents.

“My family was in these two rooms when the earthquake struck,” he tells EFE, pointing to a mound of dirt and rubble in the Zindah Jan district.

Khan Agha, 50, lost his wife, four daughters and nephew, who were all together in one room.

Agha’s daughters were at home that day, prevented from going to school by the Taliban’s ban on girls’ secondary education.

“My daughters were the light of my house, and they left with their dreams. Maybe they have something to say, but they are gone,” he says next to the seven graves he dug for his dead relatives on Saturday.

In Zindah Jan district not a single house is left standing, almost all the families suffered losses and people are still digging through the rubble to find their relatives.

“I met a young man who told me he was the only survivor from his family. But what is hard to accept is the expression on people’s faces and the high level of trauma. People are still trying to digest what is happening to them,” Siddig Ibrahim, head of Unicef Afghanistan’s Western Region field office, told EFE.

Asifa’s house collapsed on top of her and her children, according to testimony gathered by Unicef.

When the first earthquake shook the earth, the 21-year-old mother decided to stay indoors, thinking the noise and vibration was due to shelling.

“At first I thought it was an explosion,” says the young woman who was born and raised amidst the armed conflict and war that has ravaged the country for decades, “but almost immediately afterwards the house fell on me and my children,” she recalls. EFE