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A powerful 6.3-magnitude earthquake hit western Afghanistan over the weekend, causing thousands of casualties in the Central Asian country as it grapples with a humanitarian crisis and international isolation following the Taliban takeover two years ago, the Washington Post reported.

Taliban officials said the earthquake hit near Herat – one of the country’s most populous cities – destroying more than 450 houses and razing a number of villages. Local authorities later reported powerful aftershocks.

Almost 2,450 people died and around 10,000 were injured, according to the Taliban, although the death toll may rise. The national director of the aid group World Vision Afghanistan, Thamindri de Silva, told CNN: “The situation is worse than we imagined with people in devastated villages still desperately trying to rescue survivors from under the rubble with their bare hands.”

Officials compared the destruction to the damage caused by a similar quake in eastern Afghanistan last year.

That natural disaster was considered one of the deadliest in Afghanistan, killing more than 1,000 people and prompting concerns about the Taliban government’s ability to respond to such disasters effectively.

Since the Taliban’s takeover in 2021 following the withdrawal of foreign troops, Afghanistan has been facing deepening crises as it grapples with humanitarian and economic challenges, the New York Times added.

Currently, nearly half of its population of 39 million people is dealing with severe hunger, with around three million teetering on the edge of starvation, according to the United Nations’ World Food Programme.

No country has recognized the Taliban as Afghanistan’s legitimate leaders. The armed group has imposed draconian restrictions on women since it came to power, a reversal of its promises. This has led to international calls to cut funding to the country.

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