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Devastating earthquakes strike Afghanistan, Leaving over 2,000 dead and 9,000 injured

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KABUL – In a heart-wrenching disaster, Afghanistan has been struck by a series of powerful earthquakes that have claimed the lives of more than 2,000 people and left over 9,000 injured, according to an announcement by the Taliban administration on Sunday. These tragic events mark the deadliest tremors to shake the earthquake-prone mountainous nation in years.

The devastating earthquakes occurred on Saturday in the western part of Afghanistan, approximately 35 kilometers (20 miles) northwest of the city of Herat. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reported that one of the quakes had a magnitude of 6.3, making them some of the deadliest earthquakes the world has witnessed this year.

Janan Sayeeq, the spokesman for the Ministry of Disasters, confirmed the grim statistics, stating that 2,053 people lost their lives, 9,240 sustained injuries, and 1,320 houses were damaged or completely destroyed. This death toll represents a significant increase from the initial report of 500 casualties provided by the Red Crescent earlier on Sunday.

In response to the catastrophe, ten rescue teams were dispatched to the affected area, which shares its border with Iran, as announced by Sayeeq during a press conference.

Hospitals in Herat, the closest major city to the epicenter, have been inundated with victims. A health department official identified only as Dr. Danish reported that more than 200 deceased individuals have been transported to various medical facilities, with a significant number of them being women and children. To accommodate the influx of casualties, makeshift beds were set up outside the main hospital in Herat, as images circulating on social media platforms revealed.

The gravity of the situation has prompted an urgent call for humanitarian aid. Suhail Shaheen, the head of the Taliban’s political office in Qatar, emphasized the need for essential supplies such as food, drinking water, medicine, clothing, and tents for rescue and relief operations.

Photographs circulating on social media also depicted damage to the medieval minarets of Herat, showing visible cracks and fallen tiles. Afghanistan, hemmed in by mountains, has a history of experiencing powerful earthquakes, often occurring in the rugged Hindu Kush region along the border with Pakistan.

In situations like these, death tolls can escalate as information trickles in from more remote and inaccessible areas, particularly in a country where decades of war have left infrastructure in a state of disrepair, complicating relief and rescue efforts.

Afghanistan’s healthcare system, heavily reliant on foreign aid, has been under severe strain since the Taliban takeover two years ago. The abrupt halt of international assistance, which was a lifeline for the nation’s economy, has resulted in debilitating cuts to essential services.

Diplomats and aid officials have raised concerns over the Taliban’s restrictions on women and other competing global humanitarian crises, which have prompted donors to reduce financial support. In recent developments, the Islamist government has prohibited most Afghan female aid workers from employment, except for those in the fields of health and education.

The International Committee of the Red Cross signaled in August that it might cease financial support for 25 Afghan hospitals due to funding constraints. It remains unclear whether the Herat hospital is among those affected.

The earthquakes have incited panic in Herat, with residents reporting aftershocks and seeking refuge on the streets. The World Health Organization (WHO) revealed in a report on Sunday that Herat province has a total of 202 public health facilities, including one major regional hospital where 500 casualties have been admitted. However, logistical challenges in remote areas are hampering relief operations, and the full extent of casualties in these areas has yet to be determined.

As search and rescue operations continue, the focus remains on providing essential aid and support to the affected communities in this dire time of need.

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