Herat: A series of powerful earthquakes rocked Afghanistan on Saturday (7 October), killing at least 14 people and injuring 78 others in the western region of the country. The tremors also caused widespread damage to buildings and infrastructure, trapping some people under the rubble.
The National Center for Seismology reported that three strong earthquakes occurred within a span of half an hour, followed by five aftershocks. The first earthquake, with a magnitude of 6.1, struck at 12:11 pm local time and was centered 40 kilometers (25 miles) northwest of Herat, the largest city in the region. The second earthquake, with a magnitude of 5.6, occurred at 12:19 p.m., and the third and strongest one, with a magnitude of 6.3, occurred at 12:42 p.m.
The United States Geological Survey confirmed the location and intensity of the earthquakes and said that the depth of the quakes ranged from 10 to 35 kilometers (6 to 22 miles). The shallow depth increased the impact and damage of the tremors, which were felt across Afghanistan and neighboring countries such as Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
According to Mohammad Taleb Shahid, the public health director of Herat province, the death toll was based on the bodies brought to the central hospital so far, but it was not the final figure. He told AFP that they had information that some people were still buried under the debris. He also said that most of the casualties were in rural areas, where houses were made of mud and bricks.
A Taliban government spokesman said that in Herat city, crowds of residents and shoppers fled from buildings as soon as the earthquake began. He said that 25 people were injured and one person died in the city. He also said that the Taliban authorities were assessing the situation and providing relief to the affected people.
The earthquakes have added to the woes of Afghanistan, which is facing a humanitarian crisis amid political turmoil, economic collapse, and drought. The United Nations has warned that more than half of the population is in need of humanitarian assistance and that millions of people are at risk of starvation. The UN has also appealed for more international aid and cooperation to help the people of Afghanistan.