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Deadly Earthquake Strikes Western Afghanistan, Kills Thousands

Afghanistan quake
A man carries a body of his child, in the aftermath of an earthquake in the district of Zendeh Jan, in Herat, Afghanistan October 8, 2023. REUTERS

Herat, Afghanistan – A powerful 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck in a remote area of western Afghanistan on Saturday, killing over 2,400 people in one of the deadliest temblors to hit the country in years.

The quake struck around 44 km from the city of Herat, located near the country’s border with Iran. According to the United States Geological Survey, tremors were felt as far away as Delhi in India.

Local officials confirmed the death toll had risen dramatically, with over 2,000 also injured by the catastrophic shaking and collapse of homes and buildings. Entire villages were reduced to rubble in the impoverished countryside.

Hospitals in Herat, already struggling from a lack of resources and international aid since the Taliban takeover, were overwhelmed with victims. Doctors and nurses treated hundreds of injured out in tents and beds set up in the parking lot due to limited space inside.

Relief efforts have been hampered by remote locations hard hit and damaged roads. The Taliban administration has pleaded for emergency food, water, shelter and medical supplies to assist rescue crews. International humanitarian groups are also assessing the extent of the damage.

Afghanistan sits atop significant fault lines, leaving it vulnerable to periodic seismic activity. However, this latest quake is among the most lethal in over two decades. Occurring in mid-autumn, survivors now face the approaching harsh winter without homes.

The disaster threatens to exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover last year. International aid which propped up the nation for years was cut off, leaving services like healthcare teetering. It remains to be seen if relief for the earthquake will add further strain.

For the people of rural Herat province, the earthquake has left behind a trail of broken bodies and shattered villages in desperate need of support. The full human cost of this natural disaster is still emerging.