A powerful earthquake of 6.3 magnitude struck western Afghanistan on Saturday, killing and injuring hundreds of people and destroying thousands of homes. The quake hit about 40 kilometers northwest of Herat city, the third largest city in Afghanistan and the cultural capital of the country. The quake was followed by several aftershocks that hampered the rescue efforts.
The Taliban government said that more than 2,000 people were either killed or wounded by the quake, and more than 1,300 houses were completely or partially damaged. The worst affected areas were the villages of Mahal Wadakah, Dasht Hows, Bahadorzai, Zoryan, and Koshkak, where most of the houses were made of mud and collapsed easily. Many people were trapped under the rubble and had to be dug out by their neighbors or relatives using shovels or their bare hands.
The United Nations and other humanitarian organizations have started to send emergency supplies, such as food, water, medicine, and tents, to the affected areas. However, access to some remote villages was difficult due to blocked roads and damaged communication networks. The World Health Organization said that the hospitals in Herat province were overwhelmed by the influx of injured people and lacked adequate equipment and staff.
Afghanistan is prone to earthquakes as it lies near the junction of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates. In June last year, a 5.9 magnitude earthquake hit the eastern province of Paktika, killing more than 1,000 people and leaving tens of thousands homeless.