- By Rachel Russell
- BBC News
Hundreds of people are feared dead after a powerful earthquake hit western Afghanistan near the border with Iran.
Some estimates put the death toll higher. A 6.3-magnitude earthquake on Saturday destroyed at least 12 villages near the city of Herat.
There were powerful aftershocks. Survivors described their terror as buildings collapsed around them.
Rescue workers spent the night trying to find people trapped under the rubble.
Thousands of people were injured.
In a country with inadequate medical facilities, hospitals are struggling to treat the injured. The UN and other organizations have begun to urgently deliver supplies.
The quake struck about 40 km (25 miles) northwest of Herat at around 11:00 local time (06:30 GMT) on Saturday.
“We were in our office and suddenly the building started shaking. The wall plaster started falling down and the walls started to crack, some walls and parts of the building collapsed.” Herat resident Bashir Ahmed told AFP news agency.
“I couldn’t contact my family… I was so worried and scared, it was terrifying,” she added.
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Footage from Herat Central Hospital showed casualties linked to intravenous drips being treated outside the main building – a sign of sudden and high demand for emergency care.
Other images show scenes of devastation in Herat’s Injil district where debris blocked roads and hampered rescue efforts.
“The situation is terrible, I have never experienced anything like that,” student Idris Arsala told AFP. He evacuated his classroom to safety after the earthquake struck.
Herat is located 120 km (75 mi) east of the Iranian border and is considered the cultural capital of Afghanistan. An estimated 1.9 million people live in the province.
Afghanistan is frequently hit by earthquakes – particularly in the Hindu Kush mountain range where it lies near the junction of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates.
In June last year, a 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck Paktika province, killing more than 1,000 people and leaving tens of thousands homeless.