Massive earthquake hits western Afghanistan, leaving a trail of destruction and tragedy

Oct 16, 2023

On October 15, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck approximately 50 kilometers northwest of Herat city in western Afghanistan, marking it the seventh earthquake in eight days. This recent tremor followed closely after a series of intense earthquakes and aftershocks that claimed the lives of thousands and devastated entire villages in the same region, just over a week earlier.

Currently, the confirmed casualties stand at over 4,000 lives lost, with 10,000 individuals sustaining injuries and hundreds more reported missing. The number of casualties is rising with each passing hour as the rescue operations continue. This unfortunate event has compounded Afghanistan’s situation, with rescue and relief efforts stretched to their limits. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the earthquake's impact has extended to affect an estimated 12,110 people (comprising 1,730 families) across five districts within Herat Province up to this point.

In the aftermath, survivors search for missing people, trapped under rubble.

Villagers gather to attempt to rescue people trapped under the ruins. Photo: World Vision Afghanistan Response ©2023 World Vision

World Vision’s national director in Afghanistan, Thamindri de Silva, has made the following statement:

"The situation is worse than we imagined with people in devastated villages still desperately trying to rescue survivors from under the rubble with their bare hands. People need urgent medical care, water, food, shelter and help to stay safe. Please stand with us as we respond."

World Vision is working closely with other organizations to coordinate the immediate delivery of assistance. Our local teams are deploying mobile health units in the areas most severely impacted by the earthquakes. Additionally, they are distributing hygiene kits and other essential supplies to assist the survivors. In the days and weeks ahead, our organization plans to mount a robust response, with a primary focus on providing food, clean water, sanitation, and hygiene services (WASH), healthcare, including psychosocial support and child protection programs.

Even before this earthquake struck, Afghanistan grappled with one of the world's most severe humanitarian crises. The population had already been ravaged by hunger, poverty and displacement, primarily due to factors such as recurrent drought and prolonged years of conflict. Before this latest natural disaster, more than 29.2 million Afghans were already in dire need of humanitarian assistance.

Your support is crucial in delivering emergency assistance. Click here to donate.

From Shockwaves to Aftershocks: Understanding the impact of earthquakes

The impact of earthquakes is multifaceted, affecting human lives, infrastructure, the environment and the economy to varying extents. Earthquakes can cause devastating loss of life and injuries. Buildings and structures can collapse, trapping people inside. Falling debris and structural damage pose immediate threats to human safety. Furthermore, earthquakes can result in extensive damage to infrastructure, businesses and public facilities, leading to significant economic losses.

A tale of human and infrastructural destruction.

After a series of earthquakes and aftershocks, houses across many villages have collapsed, causing great casualties. Photo: World Vision Afghanistan Response ©2023 World Vision

Delivering critical assistance in times of crisis

World Vision has extensive experience in responding to earthquakes and delivering critical emergency assistance in various global locations. In the past year, World Vision was actively engaged in Indonesia and earlier this year in Türkiye and Syria, providing access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) resources, healthcare, shelter, and protection and care for vulnerable children.

In times of crisis, the ability to act swiftly and effectively is paramount in ensuring the survival of families and children experiencing sudden disasters. World Vision's network of partner warehouses worldwide plays a pivotal role in this endeavor by maintaining a readily accessible inventory of emergency provisions that can be swiftly transported to crisis-stricken areas.

World Vision’s emergency response to provide much needed relief.

After the earthquakes, our staff immediately set out to the villages to help. Photo: World Vision Afghanistan Response ©2023 World Vision

Upon the declaration of an emergency in any supported region, World Vision swiftly mobilizes by providing emergency funds, personnel and essential resources like food, potable water, medical supplies, shelter in the form of blankets and tents, as well as valuable psychosocial support.

Your support is crucial in delivering emergency assistance. Click here to donate.

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Edited by Alicia Dubay