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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Another powerful quake hits Afghanistan, days after deadly temblors

Guests in the courtyard of the Arg Hotel in Herat City, Afghanistan, after a strong earthquake early Wednesday.

By Christina Goldbaum and Yaqoob Akbary

A powerful earthquake struck Herat province in Afghanistan near the border with Iran early Wednesday, several days after two major quakes in the same area killed more than 1,000 people.

The magnitude 6.3 temblor struck northwestern Afghanistan at 5:22 a.m. at a depth of about 6 miles, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The epicenter was just outside Herat City, the provincial capital and one of the country’s cultural and economic hubs.

The latest episode sent people in Herat City running out of their homes for the second time in five days. Thousands of others had already been sleeping outside in tents, or in makeshift shelters made of blankets and tarp, still terrified from the dual quakes that rocked the area Saturday.

“When my body started shaking I realized it was another quake,” said Nadar, 52, who goes by one name, and who had been sleeping in his yard. “Everyone sleeping outside was shouting and screaming.”

Inside the Arg Hotel, a team of New York Times journalists felt the walls shake violently and the building sway. Bright lights illuminating the hallway flickered and went dark as guests ran out of the building. When the shaking subsided, parts of the concrete walls had broken off, and pieces of the ceiling in some rooms had crashed to the floor.

Mohammad Reza, a doctor in Herat, had been sleeping in his house, hoping the aftershocks from Saturday’s quakes had finally subsided.

“I thought that it was all over,” said Reza, 28. When he woke to the walls shaking, he sprinted fromf the house barefoot, through the yard and to the alley outside.

“I was so scared and shocked, now I feel dizzy and I’m just throwing up,” he added.

The Saturday quakes, both of which were also 6.3 magnitude, caused mud-brick homes in several districts to come crashing down. At least seven tremors followed.

There was optimism that the Wednesday quake would be less destructive. The buildings in Herat City are mostly made from concrete — not mud-brick, as in districts that saw the worst devastation Saturday — and many people were sleeping outside.

Still, at Herat’s regional public hospital, ambulances raced in and out of the gate Wednesday morning carrying dozens of injured people.

Outside the intensive care unit, dozens of doctors and nurses stood at a makeshift triage station and swarmed the ambulances as each new wave of patients arrived. They bandaged bloodied arms and legs, rolled out IVs on rickety metal stands and tried to calm people crying with fear as their loved ones were treated.

One man in a dirt-covered orange salwar kameez, a traditional loosefitting garment, carried a young boy to the triage station and laid him down on the pavement. After the initial quake Saturday morning, they had come from Nawabad village, on the outskirts of Herat, in an Army Ranger vehicle.

As doctors inserted an IV into the boy, the man stood up in tears and let out a shriek.

“There’s nothing left!” he cried, before pleading with hospital staff members to let him check the morgue for other relatives who were still missing from the weekend disaster, which leveled homes in his village.

“Please,” he begged. “Just let me go and check the dead bodies.”

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