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Over 2,000 feared dead after powerful earthquakes hit Afghanistan

Afghan residents sit at a damaged house after an earthquake in a village in Herat province on Saturday.
Mohsen Karimi
AFP via Getty Images
Afghan residents sit at a damaged house after an earthquake in a village in Herat province on Saturday.

Updated October 8, 2023 at 12:14 PM ET

Two strong earthquakes have shaken parts of western Afghanistan — with up to 2,000 feared dead and many injured. It's one of the deadliest earthquakes to strike the country in two decades.

A Taliban government spokesman said Sunday that death toll from strong earthquakes that shook Herat in western Afghanistan has risen to over 2,000.

Abdul Wahid Rayan, spokesman at the Ministry of Information and Culture, said the death toll is higher than originally reported. About six villages have been destroyed, and hundreds of civilians have been buried under the debris, he said while calling for urgent help.

Earlier, Mosa Ashari, the disaster management chief of the province of Herat had said: "So far more than 1,000 injured women, children and elderly citizens have been included in our records, and about 120 people have lost their lives".

Images shared by Afghan journalists showed at least one village reduced to rubble after a series of quakes flattened stone and mud-brick homes in the country's west.

Other images showed the dead strewn about, covered out of respect with blankets. They included children.

At least five earthquakes hit around noon, Herat city resident Abdul Shakor Samadi told The Associated Press.

"All people are out of their homes," Samadi said. "Houses, offices and shops are all empty and there are fears of more earthquakes. My family and I were inside our home, I felt the quake." His family began shouting and ran outside, he told the news service.

Herat is Afghanistan's third-largest city and is located 75 miles east of the border with Iran. The earthquakes were also felt in Iran's northeastern Razavi Khorasan province.

Afghanistan's Taliban government ferried away some of the wounded by helicopter.

The United Nations earlier said at least 320 were killed, but later added that number was not verified.

The U.S. Geological Survey reported that a pair of earthquakes had a magnitude of 6.3, and they were followed by aftershocks.

The World Health Organization's office in Afghanistan said on X, formerly Twitter: "We have sent medicines & medical supplies to the hospitals to support treatment of those wounded. Our warehouse is ready to deploy for additional medicines as needed."

In June 2022, a powerful earthquake struck a remote area of eastern Afghanistan killing more than 1,000.

Afghanistan is one of the world's poorest and malnourished countries — and it has been largely isolated since the Taliban seized power more than two years ago.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Diaa Hadid
Diaa Hadid chiefly covers Pakistan and Afghanistan for NPR News. She is based in NPR's bureau in Islamabad. There, Hadid and her team were awarded a Murrow in 2019 for hard news for their story on why abortion rates in Pakistan are among the highest in the world.