Afghan earthquakes death toll revised to ‘over 1,000’ from over 2,400 by Taliban-run ministry

By Mohammad Yunus Yawar

KABUL (Reuters) – Afghanistan’s disaster management ministry on Friday revised downward the death toll from multiple earthquakes to around 1,000 from an earlier figure of over 2,400, a spokesman said.

Multiple earthquakes struck in the western province of Herat on Saturday and Wednesday, destroying entire villages in the war-battered country, many of which were scattered in remote areas.

“Around 1,000 dead, 2,000 registered injured and 1,320 houses totally destroyed,” the spokesman of the Taliban-run disaster management ministry, Janan Sayeeq, said of the multiple earthquakes that struck on Saturday.

“The previous details about the death toll were on basis of predictions,” he said, days after the health ministry had said around 1,000 people had been killed. The U.N.’s humanitarian office had said on Tuesday that around 1,300 people had died.

Sayeeq added that another earthquake on Wednesday, also in the same province, had resulted in three deaths and 164 injured.

Despite the lowered death toll, the impact on Afghans threatens to escalate an already growing humanitarian crisis.

The earthquakes flattened buildings in some 20 villages in the northwest, Afghan officials said. A U.N. report said that 100 percent of homes had been destroyed in Zinda Jan district, along with six schools.

Afghanistan’s healthcare system, reliant almost entirely on foreign aid, has faced crippling cuts in the two years since the Taliban took over and much international assistance, which had formed the backbone of the economy, was halted.

Diplomats and aid officials say concerns over Taliban restrictions on women and competing global humanitarian crises are causing donors to pull back on financial support. The Islamist government has ordered most Afghan female aid staff not to work, although with exemptions in health and education.

Aid agencies launched fresh appeals for funds to deal with the fallout of deadly earthquakes in Afghanistan as local authorities called on Thursday for urgent help for thousands of people left homeless in the aftermath of the tremors.

(Reporting by Mohammad Yunus Yawar; writing by Gibran Peshimam; editing by Jonathan Oatis)