ISLAMABAD (AP) — Two 6.3-magnitude earthquakes killed dozens of people in western Afghanistan on Saturday, the country’s national disaster agency said.
The United Nations gave a preliminary death toll of 320, but later said the figure was still under review. According to the same update from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, local authorities estimated 100 people were killed and 500 injured.
Mohammad Abdullah Jan said four villages in Zenda Jan district of Herat province bore the brunt of the quakes and aftershocks. Dozens of houses were damaged.
The United States Geological Survey reported tremors of magnitude 6.3. It said the epicenter was 40 kilometers (24.8 miles) northwest of the city of Herat. There was an aftershock of magnitude 5.5.
A map on the USGS website indicates seven earthquakes in the region. At least five strong earthquakes struck the city around midday, said Abdul Shakor Samadi, a resident of Herat city.
“All the people are out of their houses,” Samadi said. “Houses, offices and shops are all empty and there are fears of more earthquakes. My family and I were in our house, I felt the tremor.” His family started screaming and ran outside, afraid to go back into the house.
The World Health Organization in Afghanistan said it had sent 12 ambulances to Zenda Jan to evacuate injured people to hospitals.
“As deaths and injuries from the earthquake continue to be reported, teams are in hospitals to support the treatment of the wounded and assess additional needs,” the UN agency said on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Ambulances supported by WHO are transporting those affected, most of whom are women and children.”
Telephone connections broke down in Herat, making it difficult to get details from affected areas. Videos on social media showed hundreds of people on the streets outside their homes and offices in the city of Herat.
Herat Province borders Iran. According to local media reports, the quake was also felt in the nearby Afghan provinces of Farah and Badghis.
Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban-appointed deputy prime minister for economic affairs, expressed condolences for the dead and injured in Herat and Badghis.
The Taliban called on local organizations to reach earthquake-hit areas as quickly as possible to help take the injured to hospital, provide shelter for the homeless and deliver food to survivors. They said security agencies should use all their resources and facilities to rescue people trapped under rubble.
“We ask our wealthy compatriots for all possible cooperation and help for our affected brothers,” the Taliban said on X.
In June 2022, a powerful earthquake struck a rugged mountainous region in eastern Afghanistan, destroying houses made of stone and adobe. The quake was the worst in Afghanistan in two decades. At least 1,000 people were killed and around 1,500 were injured.