HERAT -- Rescuers Tuesday (January 18) searched for survivors of a powerful earthquake in remote Badghis province that killed at least 22 people and caused "massive" damage to buildings, officials said.
Monday afternoon's shallow 5.3-magnitude quake jolted Qadis district, a rural area not easily accessible by road.
"The earthquake caused massive damage to houses; about 700 to 1,000 have been damaged," Badghis provincial spokesman Baz Mohammad Sarwary said in a video message.
Afghanistan is already in the grip of a humanitarian disaster, worsened by the collapse of the Afghan government last August.
The country also suffered its worst drought in decades in 2021.
Sarwary said 22 people were killed and four were injured, revising the death toll from the previous figure of 26 he gave to AFP late Monday. Four children were among those killed, he said.
"There is the possibility that the casualties could increase," he said in his latest video message.
Images circulating on social media showed residents, including children, searching through the rubble of collapsed houses.
Epicentre near Qala-e-Naw
The epicentre of the quake was near Qala-e-Naw, the capital of Badghis, less than 100km from the Turkmen border, according to the US Geological Survey.
The United Nations has said it needs $5 billion in 2022 to avert the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan.
The United States on January 11 promised more than $308 million in an initial aid package for Afghanistan this year.
A devastating drought has compounded the crisis, with earthquake-hit Qadis one of the worst affected areas.
Afghanistan is frequently hit by earthquakes, especially in the Hindu Kush mountain range, which lies near the junction of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates.
Even weak earthquakes can cause significant damage to poorly built houses and other buildings in the impoverished country.
In 2015, more than 380 people were killed in Pakistan and Afghanistan when a powerful 7.5-magnitude earthquake ripped across the two countries, with the bulk of the deaths in Pakistan.
In that disaster, 12 young Afghan girls were crushed to death in a stampede as they tried to flee their shaking school.