Powerful Earthquake Shakes West Afghanistan Week After Devastating Quakes Hit Same Region

Powerful Earthquake Shakes West Afghanistan Week After Devastating Quakes Hit Same Region
Injured people received treatment after a powerful earthquake in Herat Province, western of Afghanistan, on Oct. 15, 2023. (MSF Afghanistan via AP)

ISLAMABAD—A powerful 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck western Afghanistan on Sunday, just over a week after strong quakes and aftershocks killed thousands of people and flattened entire villages in the same region.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the latest quake’s epicenter was about 34 kilometers (21 miles) outside Herat, the provincial capital, and eight kilometers (five miles) below the surface.

Aid group Doctors Without Borders said two people were reported dead while Herat Regional Hospital received over 100 people injured in Sunday’s temblor.

Mohammad Zahir Noorzai, head of the emergency relief team in Herat Province said one person died and nearly 150 others were injured. He added that casualty numbers might rise, as they are yet to reach all affected areas.

Sayed Kazim Rafiqi, 42, a Herta city resident, said he had never seen such devastation before with the majority of houses damaged and “people terrified.” Mr. Rafiqi and others headed to the hospital to donate much-needed blood.

“We have to help in any way possible,” he said.

The earthquakes on Oct. 7 flattened whole villages in Herat, in one of the most destructive quakes in the country’s recent history.

More than 90 percent of the people killed a week ago were women and children, U.N. officials reported Thursday.

Taliban representatives said the earlier quakes killed more than 2,000 people across the province. The epicenter was in Zenda Jan district, where 1,294 people died, 1,688 were injured and every home was destroyed, according to U.N. figures.

The initial quake, numerous aftershocks and a second 6.3-magnitude quake on Wednesday flattened villages, destroying hundreds of mud-brick homes that could not withstand such force. Schools, health clinics, and other village facilities also collapsed.

Besides rubble and funerals after that devastation, there was little left of the villages in the region’s dusty hills. Survivors are struggling to come to terms with the loss of multiple family members and in many places, living residents are outnumbered by volunteers who came to search the debris and dig mass graves.

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