Devastating Earthquakes Strike Herat Province, Afghanistan: A Comprehensive Overview of the Impact and Response

In early October 2023, a series of four powerful earthquakes, each measuring Mww 6.3, and their subsequent aftershocks rocked Herat Province in western Afghanistan. This seismic activity, occurring within the complex collision zone of the Arabian Plate, the Indian Plate, and the Eurasian Plate, has left a profound impact on the region.

Overview of the Earthquakes

The first two earthquakes struck on October 7, at 11:11 AFT and 11:42 AFT near the city of Herat, followed by multiple aftershocks. On October 11 and 15, two additional Mww 6.3 earthquakes shook the same area. The United States Geological Survey identified shallow thrust faulting as the cause for all four earthquakes, with a fault plane solution indicating an east–west rupture source. Subsequently, on October 28, a Mww 5.0 event hit the region, followed by a mb 4.8 aftershock.

Human Toll

Tragically, more than 2,400 people lost their lives in these earthquakes, marking the deadliest tremors in Afghanistan in recent years. 

Impact on Communities

The World Health Organization and the Taliban provided varying death toll estimates, underscoring the challenges in rescue and coordination efforts. Reports indicated that 90 percent of the casualties were women and children who perished in collapsed homes. The United Nations estimated that 43,300 people were affected, with 114,000 in need of aid, affecting not only Herat Province but also neighboring provinces like Badghis and Farah.

Infrastructure and Housing Damage

Over 21,500 houses were destroyed, and an additional 17,088 were severely damaged. Critical infrastructure, including health facilities and schools, suffered extensive harm. Mud-built homes were particularly vulnerable, with entire villages razed. The medieval-era minarets in Herat also sustained damage, adding to the cultural loss.

Response and Recovery

The aftermath of these earthquakes prompted a massive response from local and international agencies. The National Disaster Management Authority and humanitarian organizations worked tirelessly to provide aid and support to the affected population. Efforts were hampered by challenges such as communication breakdowns and the difficult terrain.


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