Second powerful quake hits in days; thousands feared dead

HERAT, AFGHANISTAN – A second powerful earthquake has rocked western Afghanistan, compounding the devastation caused by a previous quake that claimed the lives of over 2,000 people and left entire villages flattened in Herat province. The latest earthquake, measuring 6.3 in magnitude, struck approximately 17 miles outside the provincial capital of Herat and triggered a landslide that blocked a major highway. The aid organization Doctors Without Borders reported that 117 people were injured in the temblor and provided additional medical supplies to the regional hospital in Herat. Chahak village, previously untouched by the tremors, saw all 700 homes flattened, but fortunately, no deaths have been reported as residents had sought shelter in tents due to ongoing aftershocks.

The epicenter of the earlier earthquake, which occurred on Saturday with the same magnitude, was located about 25 miles northwest of Herat. Taliban officials have stated that more than 2,000 people lost their lives as a result of the quakes, but no detailed breakdown of casualties has been provided. The affected region now lies in ruins, with survivors grappling with the loss of multiple family members. Volunteers have flocked to the area, outnumbering the remaining residents, to assist in search and rescue efforts as well as the burial process.

Zinda Jan, one of the worst-affected districts, has experienced extreme levels of destruction, according to satellite imagery from the United Nations. The district, which has only one government-run hospital, has raised concerns about the vulnerability of children and the severe psychological distress they may be experiencing in the aftermath of the earthquakes. Afghanistan, due to its location near fault lines and the movement of tectonic plates, is prone to earthquakes. The country has recently endured several significant quakes, including a magnitude 6.5 earthquake in March and another in June 2022 that claimed the lives of at least 1,000 people.

Neighboring Pakistan has offered assistance, but the delivery of humanitarian aid has been delayed due to clearance issues with the Taliban. Pakistan has set a deadline for undocumented migrants, including 1.7 million Afghans residing illegally in the country, to leave before October 31. The strained relations between the two countries have added to the challenges faced by those affected by the earthquakes in Afghanistan.