Multiple earthquakes struck western Afghanistan on Saturday, killing at least 16 people and injuring scores, a health department official said.
The quakes hit 35 km (20 miles) northwest of the city of Herat, with one measuring 6.3 magnitude, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said.
The tremors caused panic in Herat, said resident Naseema.
“People left their houses, we all are on the streets,” she wrote in a text to Reuters, adding that the city was feeling follow-on tremors.
An official with Herat’s health department, Dr. Danish, told Reuters that 16 people had been killed and 45 injured, but added that rescue officials were trying to access remote areas that were difficult to reach.
“The number might change,” he said.
The casualty figures were based on preliminary reports from the Zinda Jan district of Herat province, said Mullah Jan Sayeq, spokesperson for Afghanistan’s ministry of disaster management.
He added that the earthquakes had also shaken the provinces of Farah and Badghis, where there were reports of widespread damage to houses, but no details about casualties.
Emergency teams and volunteers were preparing to go Herat and help victims, Erfanullah Sharafzoi, spokesperson for the Afghan Red Crescent, said.
Many areas of Afghanistan are inaccessible by road, and scattered villages are often made of mud structures that are susceptible to collapse.
An earthquake last year in eastern Afghanistan killed 1,000 and injured hundreds. In 2005, at least 73,000 people were killed by a 7.6 magnitude quake that struck neighbouring northern Pakistan.
UNICEF said in a social media post that it was on the ground with U.N. colleagues to assess the full impact of Saturday’s quakes.
“Once again, children and families in Afghanistan have been affected by a devastating earthquake,” UNICEF said in the post on X social media platform.