KABUL : A 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck western Afghanistan on Saturday morning, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), with the epicenter situated near the region’s largest city.
The USGS reported that the epicenter was located 40 kilometers (25 miles) northwest of the city of Herat, followed swiftly by three aftershocks measuring 5.5, 4.7, and 6.2 in magnitude.
An AFP journalist in the city observed residents and shopkeepers evacuating buildings during the initial quake at around 11 am (6:30 am GMT). However, there were no immediate reports of casualties or structural damage.
“People are worried and terrified. Women, men, and children, everyone is out of their homes,” he said. “There have been aftershocks. Everyone is scared and tense. No one wants to stay inside.”
A preliminary report from the USGS suggested the potential for hundreds of fatalities. “Significant casualties are likely, and the disaster is potentially widespread. Past events with this alert level have required a regional or national level response,” the report stated.
The USGS initially reported the magnitude of the shallow quake as 6.2. Herat, positioned 120 kilometers east of the Iran border, holds the status of being the cultural capital of Afghanistan. It is the capital of Herat province, housing an estimated population of 1.9 million, according to 2019 World Bank data.
In June of the previous year, a 5.9-magnitude quake, the deadliest in nearly a quarter of a century, struck the impoverished province of Paktika, resulting in over 1,000 fatalities and tens of thousands left homeless.
In March of this year, a magnitude 6.5 quake near Jurm in northeastern Afghanistan claimed 13 lives in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Afghanistan, situated near the intersection of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates, experiences frequent earthquakes, particularly in the Hindu Kush mountain range.
The country is already grappling with a humanitarian crisis, exacerbated by the widespread withdrawal of foreign aid since the return of the Taliban to power in 2021.