Survivors of twin earthquakes in Afghanistan that killed at least 22 people said on January 18 that they had to spend the night without shelter in plummeting temperatures, after hundreds of buildings were damaged in the tremor.
Rescuers meanwhile searched for more survivors of the quakes on the afternoon of January 17 that jolted Qadis district in the western Badghis province, a rural area not easily accessible by road.
The US Geological Survey said two earthquakes hours apart of magnitude 4.9 and 5.3 rocked the district.
“Yesterday’s earthquake was a very horrifying incident. We had never seen such a thing,” Ahmad Shah, whose house in Qadis was damaged, said.
“Because of the cracked walls and roofs of our houses we stayed out all night in this cold weather. Nobody came to help and the people had to dig out those who were buried.”
Abdul Jabar, another survivor from Qadis, said many residents preferred to stay in the open fearing more tremors.
“We were scared and did not want to stay at home,” he said, adding that some Afghan and international rescue teams arrived on January 18.
“So far there has not been much support from anyone. They are just assessing the situation.”
Qadis governor Saleh Purdel said the survivors might have to stay in tents for another week.
Many fear that further rain in the area could make houses even more vulnerable.
Early on January 18 Badghis provincial spokesman Baz Mohammad Sarwary said in a video message that the quake had caused “massive” damage to houses, with up to 1,000 buildings damaged.
Sarwary and Taliban government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said 22 people were killed and four were injured.
Afghanistan is already in the grip of a humanitarian disaster, worsened by the Taliban takeover of the country in August when Western countries froze international aid and access to assets held abroad.
Images circulating on social media showed residents, including children, searching through the rubble of collapsed homes.
Government officials said rescue workers were helping search for survivors and transferring the injured to local hospitals.
Mujahid said that all government agencies had been instructed to provide food, medical aid and shelter to those affected.
“We also call on international aid agencies and humanitarian agencies to assist the victims of the disaster,” he said in a statement posted on Twitter.
The epicentre of the quake was near the city of Qala-i-Naw, the capital of Badghis, less than 100km from the Turkmenistan border, according to the US Geological Survey.
The UN has said it needs $5 billion in 2022 to avert the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan.
A devastating drought has compounded the crisis, with earthquake-hit Qadis one of the worst affected areas.
Afghanistan is frequently hit by earthquakes, especially in the Hindu Kush mountain range, which lies near the junction of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates.
Even weak earthquakes can cause significant damage to poorly built homes and buildings in the impoverished country.
In 2015, more than 380 people were killed in Pakistan and Afghanistan when a powerful 7.5-magnitude earthquake ripped across the two countries, with the bulk of the deaths in Pakistan.
In that disaster, 12 young Afghan girls were crushed to death in a stampede as they tried to flee their shaking school building.