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UN says estimate of 320 fatalities is being verified, although local authorities put the death toll at 100, with 500 injured


A series of violent earthquakes in western Afghanistan have killed hundreds of people.  
 The United Nations said more than 320 people had lost their lives, but later said the number was still being confirmed. A local Taliban official told the Guardian that the death toll was "much higher."  
  "The number of martyrs is huge, and many are still lying under the rubble," said a local Taliban official. “The Islamic Emirate is doing its best to help its people, but we need help.” 
 
  A preliminary report from the US Geological Survey (USGS) said that "significant losses are likely to occur and the disaster could be widespread." “Past events at this alert level required a regional or national response.” 
 
  Maps posted on the USGS website show a magnitude 5.9 earthquake 35 miles north-northwest of Herat, a magnitude 6.3 earthquake 33 miles north-northeast of Zinda Jan, and another magnitude 6.3 earthquake 29 miles north. Seven earthquakes are shown to have occurred in the area, including the earthquake. Northeast of Zinda Jan, about 42 miles west of the city of Herat.  
 Footage from Herat province shows apocalyptic scenes of villages reduced to rubble and people recovering dead relatives from the rubble. 
  "Dozens of villages have been completely destroyed and hundreds of people are lying under the rubble," Dawood, a resident of the hard-hit Zinda Jan district, told the Guardian by phone from Herat. .  
 “I brought the bodies of nine of my relatives to Herat and am on my way home. The roads to many villages are damaged. Tonight, many people will die under the rubble.  
  "I can tell you that there are only 50 of my relatives left in the village," Dawood added. "As of this morning, there were over 400 people living there. There's a huge disaster going on here.  
 The local governor said more than 10 villages had been reduced to rubble and a "large number" of people had died in the area. "We call on people to help the (affected) people in these villages," Noor Ahmad Islamjal said in the video.  
 He appealed to donors and pharmacies to help administer doses to local hospitals. 
 On Saturday evening, the Herat Regional Hospital was flooded with injured people from all over Herat and surrounding provinces. By afternoon local time, dozens of people were being treated outside the 600-bed hospital after it reached capacity.  
  "It was around 11 a.m. and I was shopping at the market when it started," said Esmail, a resident of Herat city. "People rushed outside. Just when they barely made it out, another earthquake struck," he said. “It was a shorter period than last time. Then another person followed. Then I decided to go home. The next earthquake happened as I was standing outside my house and the wall collapsed on top of my 12 year old cousin. 
  "We rushed him to the hospital, but it was hours before doctors could see him. "The hospital was overcrowded with hundreds of people and bodies were arriving one after another. .”  
 
 Herat province borders Iran. The earthquake was also felt in neighboring Farah and Badghis provinces, as well as several cities in neighboring Iran.  
  On Saturday night, public parks and streets in Herat city were filled with frightened residents after rumors of another strong earthquake spread on social media. "Today we cooked outside and packed as much as we could," said Jawad, a local resident. "The children are not in a good situation. They spend time in the park and outside until the morning."  
 
 Telephone service was also cut off, making it difficult to obtain accurate information about the disaster area.  
 In June 2022, a major earthquake struck the rugged mountainous region of eastern Afghanistan, destroying stone and Japanese brick houses.  
 The earthquake was the worst in Afghanistan in 20 years, killing at least 1,000 people and injuring around 1,500. The country is frequently struck by earthquakes, especially in the Hindu Kush Mountains near the intersection of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates. 
  Afghanistan is already facing a severe humanitarian crisis due to the widespread withdrawal of foreign aid since the Taliban took power in August 2021. 

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