Published2 hours ago
Hundreds of people are feared dead and at least 1,000 are injured after a powerful earthquake hit western Afghanistan, near the Iranian border.
The 6.3 magnitude quake struck about 40km from the western city of Herat at around 11:00 local time (06:30 GMT).
Many buildings were damaged, trapping people under rubble and there were at least three powerful aftershocks.
Survivors described their terror as office buildings first shook – and then collapsed around them.
“We were in our offices and suddenly the building started shaking. Wall plaster started to fall down and the walls got cracks, some walls and parts of the building collapsed.” Herat resident Bashir Ahmad told news agency AFP.
“I am not able to contact my family, network connections are disconnected. I am too worried and scared, it was horrifying,” he added.
The province’s disaster management chief Mosa Ashari told reporters: “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.”
Early reports put the confirmed toll at 15, but this was always likely to rise once emergency workers confirmed the full scale of the widespread destruction. Unconfirmed reports put the current toll at more than 300.
Video footage said to be from Herat Central Hospital showed numerous casualties linked up to portable intravenous drips being treated on the tarmac outside the main building – a sign of the sudden and overwhelming demand for emergency treatment.
Other moving pictures show scenes of devastation in Herat’s Injil district where the rubble of destroyed buildings blocked roads, hampering rescue efforts.
“The situation was very horrible, I have never experienced such a thing,” student Idrees Arsala told AFP. He was the last to safely evacuate his classroom after the quakes began.
Herat is located 120km (75 miles) east of the border with Iran and is considered to be the cultural capital of Afghanistan. An estimated 1.9 million people are believed to be living in the province, according to 2019 World Bank data.
Afghanistan is frequently hit by earthquakes – especially in the Hindu Kush mountain range as it lies near the junction of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates.
In June last year, the province of Paktika was hit by a 5.9 magnitude quake which killed more than 1,000 people and left tens of thousands homeless.