Afghan villagers and volunteers helped dig for survivors from a series of earthquakes that killed more than 2,000 people, as aid began trickling into the devastated region.
Volunteers in trucks packed with food, tents and blankets flocked to hard-to-reach areas 30kms (19 miles) northwest of Herat city.
Herat province was hit by a magnitude 6.3 earthquake on Saturday and eight powerful aftershocks.
The volunteers also brought shovels to help dig through the rubble of flattened villages as hope dwindled that anyone may still be alive under the rubble.
Local and national officials gave conflicting counts of the number of dead and injured, but the country’s disaster agency said yesterday that 2,053 people had died.
The World Health Organisation said more than 11,000 people had been affected from 1,655 families.
As winter draws in, providing shelter for them will be a major challenge for Afghanistan’s Taliban government, which seized power in August 2021 and has fractious relations with international aid organisations.
Taliban authorities have banned women from working for UN and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the country, making assessments of family needs in deeply conservative parts of the country difficult.
Save the Children called the earthquake “a crisis on top of a crisis”.
“The scale of the damage is horrific. The numbers affected by this tragedy are truly disturbing,” said the group’s country director Arshad Malik.
Most rural homes in Afghanistan are made of mud built around wooden support poles, with little in the way of modern steel reinforcement.
Multi-generational extended families generally live under the same roof, meaning disasters such as Saturday’s earthquake can devastate local communities.
Afghanistan is already suffering a dire humanitarian crisis, with the widespread withdrawal of foreign aid following the Taliban’s return to power.
Herat province – home to around 1.9 million people on the border with Iran – has also been hit by a years-long drought that has crippled many hardscrabble farm communities.
Afghanistan is frequently hit by earthquakes, especially in the Hindu Kush mountain range, which lies near the junction of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates.
More than 1,000 people were killed and tens of thousands left homeless last June after a 5.9-magnitude quake struck the impoverished province of Paktika.