Two days after the deadliest earthquakes to jolt the nation in years slammed the northwest city of Herat and its surroundings, rescue workers in Afghanistan raced to extricate survivors and the dead from the rubble.
The quakes claimed at least 2,400 lives and injured many more, according to the Taliban government, proving to be among the deadliest in the world this year after tremors in Turkey and Syria, where an estimated 50,000 people died.
Following the sorrowful situation in Afghanistan, neighbours Pakistan and Iran have offered to send rescue workers and humanitarian aid, while China’s Red Cross Society offered cash relief aid.
“The operation is still going on, still some people are being pulled out of the rubble,” the spokesman of Herat’s governor, Nissar Ahmad Elyias, told Reuters, adding that more than a dozen villages around Herat were also affected.
Many buildings in Herat city were relatively unaffected, but the mediaeval minarets of its famous mosques sustained some damage, photographs on social media showed.
“Many of our family members have been martyred, including one of my sons, and my other son is also injured,” Herat resident Mir Ahmed said at a hospital that was treating many survivors.
“Most of the people are under the rubble.”
Afghanistan, surrounded by mountains, is known for its strong earthquakes, particularly in the Hindu Kush region near Pakistan. The country’s war-torn infrastructure and difficulty in organising relief and rescue operations often increase death tolls in remote areas.
In a statement late on Sunday, the UN Humanitarian Office put the death toll from the quakes at 1,023, with an additional 1,663 people injured, and more than 500 missing. It said all the homes in the Zindajan district in Herat were destroyed.
Afghanistan’s healthcare system, reliant almost entirely on foreign aid, has faced crippling cuts in the two years since the Taliban took over and much international assistance, which had formed the backbone of the economy, was halted.
Pakistan said its disaster management authority had put a search and rescue team on standby to assist in the disaster-hit area. It is also preparing to send in relief items including food, medications, tents and blankets.
Iran, whose border is less than 90 kilometres from the site of the worst-hit area, also pledged humanitarian aid, the Taliban administration said.