More than 300 people dead as Afghanistan hit by two 6.3 magnitude earthquakes

People were left trapped under the rubble as buildings were destroyed by the tremors. Credit: X/@UNICEFAfg

The death toll from a pair of strong earthquakes in western Afghanistan has risen to 320, the United Nations has said.

Two 6.3 magnitude earthquakes hit the Central Asian country on Saturday, with a number of buildings brought crashing down, leaving people trapped underneath the rubble.

Mohammad Abdullah Jan said four villages in the Zenda Jan district in Herat province bore the brunt of the quakes and aftershocks.

The United States Geological Survey said the epicenter of the 6.3 magnitude tremors was 24.8 miles northwest of Herat city, measuring an aftershock at 5.5 magnitude.

A map on the USGS website indicates seven earthquakes in the area. At least five powerful earthquakes struck the city around noon, Herat city resident Abdul Shakor Samadi said.

World Health Organisation teams on the ground helping victims. Credit: X/@WHOAfghanistan

“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.” The World Health Organization in Afghanistan, a UN agency, posted on X: “As deaths & casualties from the earthquake continue to be reported, teams are in hospitals assisting treatment of wounded & assessing additional needs.

“WHO-supported ambulances are transporting those affected, most of them women and children.”

It follows a devastating earthquake in June 2022 which left at least 1,000 people dead. Credit: @UNICEFAfg

Telephone connections went down in Herat, making it hard to get details from affected areas. Videos on social media showed hundreds of people in the streets outside their homes and offices in Herat city. Herat province borders Iran. The quake also was felt in the nearby Afghan provinces of Farah and Badghis, according to local media reports. Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban-appointed deputy prime minister for economic affairs, expressed his condolences to the dead and injured in Herat and Badghis. In June 2022, a powerful earthquake struck a rugged, mountainous region of eastern Afghanistan, flattening stone and mud-brick homes. The quake was Afghanistan’s deadliest in two decades, killing at least 1,000 people and injuring about 1,500.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know…