Clinging to the hope that survivors could still be found, Afghan rescuers and villagers continued to dig through the rubble in the western province of Herat on Tuesday, three days after one of the region’s deadliest earthquakes left more than 2,000 dead.
In other parts of Herat, people were digging graves for loved ones killed in Saturday’s 6.3 magnitude earthquake. In an arid field in the Zinda Jan district, an excavator removed mounds of earth to make room for a long row of graves.
“It is very difficult to find a family member in a destroyed house and a few minutes later bury him in a nearby grave, again underground,” said Mir Agha, from the city of Herat, who had joined hundreds of volunteers. to help the locals in Zinda Jan.
Across kilometers (miles) of dusty hills, little remained of villages other than rubble and funerals.
In Naib Rafi, a village that previously had about 2,500 residents, people said there was almost no one aliveapart from the men who were working outside when the earthquake hit. Survivors worked all day with bulldozers to dig long trenches for mass burials.
Janan Sayiq, spokesman for the Afghan Taliban government’s national disaster authority, said the earthquake killed and injured thousands of people, but was unable to provide a breakdown of the victims. Earlier, Taliban officials said more than 2,000 had been killed across Herat.
He The epicenter was about 40 kilometers (25 miles) northwest of the city of Herat, the provincial capital.said the United States Geological Survey. Several of the aftershocks have been strong, including one on Monday that again sent city residents running from their homes.
The United Nations said the Zinda Jan district was the worst affected area, with 1,294 dead and 1,688 injured. In addition, 485 people (191 men and 294 women) are missing. It was also reported that six schools were destroyed in the districtsaid the UN.
Nearly 2,000 houses in 20 villages were destroyed, the Taliban said. There is only one government-run hospital in the earthquake-affected area.
As winter approaches, the new disaster is likely to make it even harder for people to meet basic needs such as shelter, food and medicine, aid groups have warned.
It is unclear how much foreign aid has arrived in Herat since Saturday. The global response to the earthquake has been slow, with much of the world wary of dealing directly with the Taliban-led government and focused on the deadly escalation between Israel and the Palestinians following the surprise attack by Taliban militants. Gaza on Saturday.
Pakistan has pledged to send blankets, tents and medicine, and China has reportedly offered cash and other means of emergency humanitarian assistance.
Other foreign governments have said they will work with aid agencies on the ground to help with rescue and recovery, and Afghans have launched fundraising campaigns.
Authorities in Kabul did not respond to questions about how much aid arrived from abroad.
The Taliban’s Ministry of Justice has urged national and international charitable foundations, businessmen and Afghans to raise aid for the province.
“Due to the magnitude of the damage and casualties caused by this incident, a large number of our compatriots in Herat province need urgent humanitarian aid“the ministry said in a statement.
Taliban-appointed Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Abdul Ghani Baradar and his team visited the earthquake-hit region on Monday to deliver “immediate relief assistance” and ensure “equitable and accurate distribution of aid,” the officials said. authorities.
The Taliban’s supreme leader has made no public comments about the earthquake.
Senior UN officials in Afghanistan also went to Zinda Jan to assess the extent of the damage. In neighboring Pakistan, the government held a special session to review aid to Afghanistan, including relief equipment, food, medicine, tents and blankets.
Vital infrastructure, including bridges, was destroyed and emergency response teams have been deployed to provide humanitarian assistance, the International Rescue Committee said.
More than 35 military teams and nonprofit groups are involved in rescue effortssaid Sayiq of the disaster authority.
Afghans are still recovering from other recent disasters, including the 6.5 magnitude earthquake in March that struck much of western Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan, and an earthquake that struck eastern Afghanistan in June 2022, devastating stone and adobe houses and killing at least 1,000 people.
(with information from AP)