KASHKAK: The hardscrabble village of Kashkak, a collection of mud-brick homes perched on a dusty plateau in western Afghanistan, is now a pile of rubble.
The village was flattened by a magnitude 6.3 quake followed by a series of eight powerful aftershocks that buried many of its inhabitants Saturday morning.
“We took out several dead bodies; three of them were little children,” said Amir Hussain, a 33-year-old volunteer rescue worker who dug through the night in the hope of finding survivors.
“They had just came from their school, one of them was killed in the street and two others in their home,” he said.
Around him, men in dust-stained clothes hacked at the camel-coloured earth – some still looking for bodies, others gouging out graves to bury the dead.
One man, dazed with emotion, was led through a maze of burial pits that now pockmark the earth.
The gravediggers paused to watch him pass, then got back to their work, mounding piles of earth over the dead.
“We were told that the death toll has reached up to 170,” said village rescue worker Maula Dad.
The government says some 2,053 have died in the “unprecedented” quake, with 1,300 homes toppled across 13 villages in western Herat province.
Late Sunday, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs put fatalities at a little over 1,000, but said “100 percent” of homes in 11 villages were totally destroyed.
‘There is nothing’
The Herat region is still grappling with a huge displaced population caused by two decades of war as well as a lingering years-long drought.
And Afghanistan in general is suffering from a massive reduction in foreign aid since the Taliban’s return to power in 2021.
Nonetheless supplies gradually began to arrive on the scene of the hard-to-reach village including food, water, tents – and some coffins for the dead.
In one aid tent, stacks of flat Afghan bread were being handed out while Red Crescent trucks unloaded supplies nearby.
Children meandered over blocks of mud-formed masonry which were once simple homes, now turned inside-out with belongings such as backpacks, cookware and toothbrushes out in the open.
Along what was once the village’s main throughfare, a man carried a child-sized bundle cradled in his arms, shrouded in a red fleece blanket.
Nearby, a mother lamented her situation.
“Everyone from our family is in the hospital. I haven’t heard from them,” said 40-year-old Fatima.
“We are all finished; there is nothing.”