June 23, 2024

People dug through the rubble of the quake in western Afghanistan for their few possessions but the material losses seemed unimportant.

Saturday’s 6.3 magnitude 6.3 quake killed and injured thousands when it levelled an untold number of homes in Herat province. Picking through the rubble on Monday, Asadullah Khan paused to think about a future marred by grief.

Khan lost three daughters, his mother and his sister-in-law. Five members of his uncle’s family have died. His neighbours are grief-stricken, too.

“We have lost 23 people in this village,” Khan said.

The Taliban-appointed deputy prime minister for economic affairs, Abdul Ghani Baradar, and his team visited the quake-affected region on Monday to deliver “immediate relief assistance” and ensure “equitable and accurate distribution of aid,” authorities said.

Top United Nations officials also went to Zinda Jan to assess the extent of the damage.

In neighbouring Pakistan, the government held a special session to review aid for Afghanistan, including relief teams.

Afghanistan has few reliable statistics but a spokesman for Afghanistan’s national disaster authority, Janan Sayiq, told reporters in Kabul that about 4,000 people were killed or injured by the disaster.

He did not provide a breakdown, but the UN estimates that 1,023 people were killed and 1,663 people injured in 11 villages in Zinda Jan alone.

Nearly 2,000 houses in 20 villages were destroyed, according to the Taliban.

The area hit by the quake has just one government-run hospital.

The epicentre was about 40 kilometres (25 miles) northwest of the city of Herat, the provincial capital, the US Geological Survey said.

Several of the aftershocks have been strong, including one on Monday that again caused residents of the city to rush out of their homes.

More than 35 teams from the military and nonprofit groups are involved in rescue efforts, said Sayiq, the disaster authority spokesperson.

The fast-approaching winter, combined with the new disaster, is likely to exacerbate Afghanistan’s existing challenges and make it even harder for people to meet their basic needs, like adequate shelter, food and medicine, aid groups warn.

Vital infrastructure including bridges was destroyed and emergency response teams have been deployed to provide humanitarian assistance, the International Rescue Committee said.

Afghans are still reeling from recent natural disasters.

A magnitude 6.5 earthquake in March struck much of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and an earthquake hit eastern Afghanistan in June 2022, flattening stone and mud-brick homes and killing at least 1,000 people.

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