After the devastating series of earthquakes in Afghanistan, hope for rescuing survivors is dwindling. Aid workers and doctors who rushed to the disaster areas in the west of the country reported a great deal of destruction.

In numerous villages northwest of the provincial capital Herat, houses were leveled by the quake, eyewitnesses said on Sunday. The Ministry of Disaster Relief put the number of deaths on Sunday at more than 2,400, with another 2,000 injured. The numbers could not initially be independently verified.

There was great concern that the number of victims could still rise in the coming days. It would be one of the worst earthquakes in Afghanistan in decades.

On Saturday morning, several earthquakes had startled residents of the Afghan border province near Iran. Within just a few hours, the earth shook nine times and more than a dozen villages were largely destroyed. The most affected area was the Sindajan district, northwest of Herat. Military and emergency services rushed to the disaster areas. According to the US Earthquake Observatory USGS, the two strongest quakes had a magnitude of 6.3.

The European Union (EU) assured the affected population of Afghanistan of its full solidarity, as EU chief diplomat Josep Borrell wrote on the short message service X (formerly Twitter). “EU teams have already reached the disaster area to help,” he said, without giving details.

Even 300 kilometers away in neighboring Iran, walls and ceiling lights were shaking on Saturday, as residents of the metropolis of Mashhad said. Authorities there also put emergency services on alert and sent teams to the border to investigate possible damage.

The quakes bring back memories of the devastating disaster last summer, when more than 1,000 people were killed in an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.9 in the east of the country. After decades of conflict, many villages with simple construction are ill-equipped to deal with earthquakes.

The Taliban have been back in power in Afghanistan for more than two years. The country is politically isolated internationally because of its repressive policies, which primarily discriminate against women and girls. This is also a reason why rescue work is making difficult progress. Severe earthquakes occur again and again in the region, especially in the Hindu Kush, where the Indian and Eurasian plates meet.