Rescuers are beginning to wrap up their operations in earthquake-hit areas of northwestern Afghanistan as the chances of finding survivors dwindle 72 hours after one of the world’s deadliest earthquakes, while local villages bid farewell to their dead in mass funerals.

At least 2,400 people were killed and over 2,000 injured, as announced by the Taliban government, in the earthquakes that occurred northwest of the city of Herat, as a result of which thousands of houses were flattened. Most of the victims are women and children, the World Health Organization said.

Rescue and aid efforts have been hampered by a shattered infrastructure after decades of war and a lack of foreign aid, which was once the backbone of the economy but has dried up since the Taliban took power.

“The business is almost over,” disaster management ministry spokesman Janan Sayik told Reuters, adding that rescue efforts were continuing in some villages.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on Sunday that 1,023 people had died in the earthquake, 1,663 were injured and more than 500 were missing. Sajik said that the final tally will be announced soon.

Surrounded by mountains, Afghanistan has a long history of strong earthquakes, many of which occur in the Hindu Kush region on the border with Pakistan.

Saturday’s tremors – one of which measured 6.3 – were among the world’s deadliest this year, following earthquakes in Turkey and Syria that killed an estimated 50,000 people.


The earthquakes leveled buildings in about 20 villages in the northwestern part of the country, including the village of Shiah Aab in Zinda Jan province, which lost at least 300 residents.

“I lost my four daughters-in-law, my four sons and my grandchildren,” said 60-year-old Taj Mohammad. He said 11 members of his family were killed in the disaster.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has announced $5 million in support for the disaster response, but immediate material aid has come from only a few countries.


Afghanistan’s health system, which relies heavily on foreign aid, has faced massive cuts in the two years since the Taliban came to power and much international aid has ceased. In addition to medical aid and food, survivors are in desperate need of shelter as temperatures drop, the World Health Organization’s emergency response official said.

Abdul Sattar, a laborer who digs graves in Shiah Aab, said the living need as much support as possible.

“Their first hope is God, followed by help from other countries,” he said, adding that he and other workers have already dug more than 500 graves.