Powerful earthquakes that struck western Afghanistan on Saturday have killed more than 2,000 people and injured more than 9,000, the Taliban administration said on Sunday.
The Taliban's death toll from the tremors that struck near the city of Herat is far higher than reported earlier. The Red Crescent said on Sunday that 500 people had died.
The US Geological Survey said a series of earthquakes hit 35km north-west of the city of Herat, with one measuring 6.3 magnitude.
Janan Sayeeq, spokesman for the Taliban's Ministry of Disasters, said that 2,053 people were dead, 9,240 injured and 1,329 houses damaged or destroyed.
He said several villages were "completely flattened" and that many people remained trapped under rubble.
There was an urgent need for tents, medical supplies and food items in the affected areas, Mr Sayeeq said as he appealed to local businessmen and NGOs to come forward to help.
The UN late on Saturday gave a preliminary figure of 320 dead, but later said the figure was being verified.
“Partners and local authorities anticipate the number of casualties to increase as search and rescue efforts continue amid reports that some people may be trapped under collapsed buildings,” it said.
The earthquakes cut off telephone connections in Herat, making it hard to get details from affected areas.
The World Health Organisation in Afghanistan said it sent 12 ambulances to held evacuate casualties from the Zenda Jan district that bore the brunt of the tremors.
Abdullah Jawad, 30, a resident of the district, said he rushed out of his shop when he felt the tremors.
"Homes crumbled instantly with the first shock," he told The National.
“There were women and children running and screaming. Many who couldn't escape in time are now trapped beneath the debris."
His uncle is among those buried, he said.
In Herat city, the tremors set off a panic as people rushed out of homes and offices, pupils were evacuated from schools, and hospitals mobilised to ensure patient safety. Videos on social media showed hundreds of people in the streets outside their homes and offices in Herat city.
Razia, 30, a domestic worker, said she was cleaning on the second floor of a house when the first quake struck. She ran outside barefoot, without her hijab.
"The windows began to break, and plates tumbled from the shelves,” she said. "It was apocalyptic."
She walked for three hours to reach her home on the outskirts of the city, which had developed cracks and its windows were shattered. Fearing more aftershocks, she said she spent the night outdoor with her two-year-old son, enduring the cold without food or shelter.
The quakes were also felt in the nearby Afghan provinces of Farah and Badghis, local media reported.
"We wish patience and solace for the families of the victims, along with a swift recovery for the injured,” said Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban-appointed deputy prime minister for economic affairs.
“Immediate relief efforts are under way to provide essential aid to those in need.”
The Taliban urged local organisations to reach earthquake-hit areas as soon as possible to help take the injured to hospital, provide shelter for the homeless, and deliver food to survivors. They said security agencies should use all their resources and facilities to rescue people trapped under debris.
“We ask our wealthy compatriots to give any possible co-operation and help to our afflicted brothers,” the Taliban said on X formerly known as Twitter.
In June 2022, an earthquake struck a rugged, mountainous region of eastern Afghanistan, flattening stone and mud-brick homes. The quake killed at least 1,000 people and injured about 1,500.
The country's ability to respond to natural disasters is limited by the substantial reduction in foreign assistance after the Taliban reclaimed control in 2021.