At least 2,000 people have died after powerful earthquakes struck western Afghanistan, a Taliban government spokesman has said.
The figures could not be independently verified but, if correct, the toll would eclipse that of an earthquake that hit eastern Afghanistan in June 2022, striking a rugged, mountainous region, flattening stone and mud-brick homes and killing at least 1,000 people.
Saturday’s magnitude 6.3 earthquake hit a far more densely populated area, near Afghanistan’s fourth largest city, Herat. It was followed by strong aftershocks.
The United States Geological Survey said the quake’s epicentre was about 25 miles north-west of Herat city.
On Sunday, people attempted to dig out the dead and injured with their hands in Herat, clambering over rocks and debris.
Survivors and victims were trapped under buildings that had crumbled to the ground, their faces grey with dust.
One video, shared online, shows people freeing a baby girl from a collapsed building after being buried up to her neck in debris.
A hand is seen cradling the baby’s torso as rescuers ease the child out of the ground. Rescuers said it was the baby’s mother. It is not clear if the mother survived.
Abdul Wahid Rayan, a spokesman at the Ministry of Information and Culture, said the death toll is higher than originally reported.
“Besides the 2,060 dead, 1,240 people are injured and 1,320 houses are completely destroyed,” said Mr Rayan.
At least a dozen teams have been scrambled to help with rescue efforts, including from the military and non-profit organisations like the Red Crescent.
The United Nations migration agency has deployed four ambulances with doctors and psychosocial support counsellors to the regional hospital.
At least three mobile health teams are on their way to the Zenda Jan district, which is one of the worst affected areas.
Doctors Without Borders set up five medical tents at Herat regional hospital to accommodate up to 80 patients. Authorities have treated more than 300 patients, according to the agency.
“A temporary camp has been set up for people who have lost their houses and need shelter for now,” Mr Sharafzai told The Associated Press.
“Whatever is in our capacity we will do for our poor and needy people at this difficult time.”
Neighbouring Pakistan said it was deeply saddened by the earthquake.
“We are in contact with the Afghan authorities to get a first-hand assessment of the urgent needs of those affected by the earthquake,” said the Foreign Affairs Ministry.
“Pakistan will extend all possible support to the recovery effort.”
China’s ambassador to Afghanistan Zhao Xing said his government and the country’s charitable institutions were ready to provide all kinds of help.
The International Rescue Committee said the lack of rescue equipment could push up the death toll in western Afghanistan because trapped survivors cannot be freed.
“There’s not much disaster management capacity and what there is can’t cover people on the ground,” said Salma Ben Aissa, the committee’s country director for Afghanistan.
“The numbers (of dead) are increasing hour by hour.”