Afghans dig out the dead with bare hands as thousands killed in powerful earthquakes

People in western Afghanistan have been left to count the cost from the deadly earthquakes, as ITV News' Charlie Frost reports

Men dug through rubble with their bare hands and shovels in western Afghanistan on Sunday in desperate attempts to pull victims from the wreckage left by powerful earthquakes that killed at least 2,000 people.

Entire villages were flattened, bodies were trapped under collapsed houses and locals waited for help without even shovels to dig people out.

The Taliban said thousands of people have died in western Afghanistan after a series of earthquakes hit the country.

On Saturday, a powerful 6.3 magnitude quake in the Herat province - which borders Iran - was followed by strong aftershocks, the country's national disaster authority said.

A Taliban spokesman said on Sunday that the death toll had risen above 2,000, after six villages were flattened and residents left buried under debris.

A government spokesman said hundreds were still trapped, more than 1,000 hurt and more than 1,300 homes destroyed.

Abdul Wahid Rayan, of the Ministry of Information and Culture, said: "Besides the 2,060 dead, 1,240 people are injured and 1,320 houses are completely destroyed."

A digger removes mud from a collapsed house in Zenda Jan district, Herat province. Credit: AP

The United Nations migration agency and World Health Organisation (WHO) said a combined 16 ambulances had been deployed to Herat province.

Doctors Without Borders, meanwhile, confirmed it had set up five medical tents at Herat Regional Hospital to help alleviate patient pressures.

According to the United States Geological Survey, the quake's epicentre was around 25 miles northwest of Herat city.

Three aftershocks - measuring 6.3, 5.9 and 5.5 in magnitude - quickly followed before a number of lesser shocks were also felt.

Videos shared on social media showed hundreds of people in the streets outside their homes and offices in Herat city.

A car lies buried under rubble in western Afghanistan. Credit: X / UNICEFAfg

The quake was also 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.

Save the Children said the scale of the damage was horrific.

“The numbers affected by this tragedy are truly disturbing – and those numbers will rise as people are still trapped in the rubble of their homes in Herat,” said the aid group's country director for Afghanistan, Arshad Malik.

“This is a crisis on top of a crisis. Even before this disaster, children were suffering from a devastating lack of food."

The Taliban said it is urging local organisations to reach earthquake-hit areas as soon as possible to provide aid.

Security agencies should use all their resources and facilities to rescue people trapped under debris, it added.

"We ask our wealthy compatriots to give any possible cooperation and help to our afflicted brothers," the Taliban said on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

In June 2022, Afghanistan was rocked by a powerful earthquake, which left at least 1,000 people dead and injured a further 1,500.

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