Rescue workers are searching for survivors after a strong earthquake in Afghanistan demolished entire towns and killed more than 1,000 people.
The Herat province, a desolate area dotted with mud brick dwellings, was the site of the 6.3-magnitude earthquake that occurred on Saturday morning.
Villagers are reportedly still searching for the missing, who number more than 500, with shovels and only their bare hands.
Due to traffic jams and broken communication lines, aid only slowly began to arrive on Monday.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that “100% of homes are estimated to have been completely destroyed” in Zindajan, a rural area some 40 kilometers (25 miles) outside of Herat city.
Initial estimates of the death toll or the number of people still missing proved difficult for the Taliban government and aid organizations. It’s improbable that authorities have population statistics for such far-flung settlements.
The region is also home to villages that were uprooted due to war and drought, making it challenging for the local government to determine the precise number of residents.
Images from the villages show entire houses, which were too fragile to withstand such a quake, reduced to rubble.
“We came home and saw there was nothing left. Everything had turned to mud,” one resident Nek Mohammad told AFP news agency. “We started to dig with shovels and whatever we had to rescue women and children from the rubble.”
Over 1,600 injured people are currently being treated in under-resourced hospitals. Numerous of them were delivered to the Herat Regional Hospital, where MSF teams have been present since Saturday.
According to the Taliban administration, earthquake victims urgently want food, water for drinking, medicine, clothing, and tents for shelter. Help has been sent by a number of humanitarian organizations, including the Afghan Red Cross Society, MSF, the World Food Programme, and Unicef. However, the agencies claim that the poor nation needs greater assistance.