Canadian ministers offered support to people in Afghanistan on Saturday after a powerful earthquake rocked the western part of the Central Asian country and reportedly killed more than 2,000 people.
Melanie Joly, minister of foreign affairs, said in a social media post that her thoughts were with Afghans as they dealt with the effects of the devastating quake.
“Canada stands ready to support the Afghan people,” she wrote on the X platform, formerly known as Twitter.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the epicentre of the 6.3-magnitude earthquake was about 40 kilometres northwest of Herat, Afghanistan’s fourth-largest city. The quake hit at about 11 a.m. local time and was followed by a series of strong aftershocks.
A Taliban government spokesman said the quake killed more than 2,000 people, but that figure had not been independently verified as of Sunday afternoon. If the toll is correct, the earthquake is among the deadliest to strike the country in two decades.
People in Herat were trying to dig out the dead and injured with their hands on Sunday, clambering over rocks and debris. Survivors and victims were trapped under buildings that had crumbled to the ground, their faces grey with dust.
As of Sunday, Global Affairs Canada said it was not aware of any Canadians missing or killed as a result of the quake. The agency said its registry of Canadians abroad listed 880 Canadians in Afghanistan, though it noted that registration is voluntary.
Ahmed Hussen, Canada’s minister of international development, said Ottawa is closely monitoring the situation.
“As we continue to learn more about the devastating earthquake, our thoughts go out to the victims’ family and loved ones,” he wrote on X.
Doctors Without Borders said the quake did not cause any damage to the regional hospital in Herat, where the international medical aid charity operates the pediatric in-patient wards.
“When the first earthquake hit … our teams rushed to evacuate all the children who were admitted, many in critical condition,” Lisa Macheiner, project coordinator for Doctors Without Borders in Herat, said in an email. “We’ve dispatched mass casualty kits to treat up to 400 wounded patients and stationed a medical team at the hospital’s emergency room for further support if necessary.”
The agency said on X that it had set up five medical tents at the hospital, where more than 300 patients had been treated as of Saturday afternoon.
— With files from The Associated Press
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 8, 2023.