The World Health Organization sent 12 ambulances to hard-hit districts in Herat Province to help evacuate casualties, it said, cautioning that the areas were remote, making rescue operations difficult. Houses in the area are fragile, the organization noted, made of mud and brick.
Nazir Hussaini, 34, was filing paperwork at a tax office in Herat City when the building started shaking. He and others ran outside screaming, then felt another quake about 10 minutes later, he said. Cellphone networks were not working well, making it difficult to get in touch with family members, and after a third tremor hit he eventually made his way back home, as his office and shops had all closed. His neighbors were cooking outside and camping in the street, he said.
The Taliban administration directed military and service organizations to prioritize the areas hit by the quake, including rescue operations, transporting the injured, preparing homeless shelters and delivering food aid.
“We wish patience and solace for the families of the victims, along with a swift recovery for the injured,” Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the acting deputy prime minister of the Taliban administration, said in a statement on X, formerly Twitter. “Immediate relief efforts are underway to provide essential aid to those in need.”
The earthquakes on Saturday were the latest natural disaster to rattle Afghanistan, which has faced a series of devastating floods and earthquakes in recent years. Those crises have tested the Taliban’s ability to coordinate vast and sustained humanitarian efforts since seizing power in 2021.
The challenge of doing so was put on display in June last year, after a 5.9-magnitude earthquake hit southeastern Afghanistan, killing more than 1,000 people and injuring 1,600 more. The earthquake was the deadliest to hit the country in decades and added to an already dire humanitarian crisis that has engulfed Afghanistan since the Western-backed government collapsed.