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At least 350 killed, thousands feared dead in Afghanistan landslides

Published on May 3, 2014 12:51 AM
 

MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan (AFP) - Landslides buried a village in northern Afghanistan on Friday, killing at least 350 people and leaving thousands of others feared dead, as rescuers searched desperately for survivors trapped under the mud.

Villagers at the disaster site in Badakhshan province used shovels to dig through rocks and dirt, with national authorities, the United Nations and the US-led military force all racing to assess the damage and provide help.

Badakhshan governor Shah Waliullah Adeeb told AFP by telephone that the death toll could be as high as 2,500.

“Our initial findings based on local people’s reports show around 2,500 people, including women and children, might be dead,” he said. “It is difficult to get confirmed information from the scene and we are seeking to determine the facts.”

Provincial officials said that two successive landslides hit Aab Bareek village within one hour as a hillside collapsed, engulfing hundreds of mud-brick homes.

Villagers were at Friday prayers in two mosques when they were swamped by a tide of debris, and the second landslide hit many who had rushed to assist those in need.

“The number of deceased has increased to 350,” the UN mission in Afghanistan said in a statement. “A response is being mobilised for those who survived but were displaced, with some partners already on the ground.

“(NATO’s) Regional Command in the north (is) in contact with the Afghan National Army in regards to search and rescue efforts,” said the UN.

Badakhshan is a remote, mountainous province in north-east Afghanistan bordering Tajikistan, China and Pakistan.

It has been relatively peaceful since the US-led military intervention began in 2001, but has seen increasing Taleban activity in recent years.

President Hamid Karzai expressed his condolences to those affected and said immediate action was being taken to save survivors as emergency efforts continued after darkness fell.

Local officials said that the landslides occurred at about midday (0730 GMT) in the Argo district of Badakshan after days of heavy rain. Between 350 and 400 houses were destroyed, they said.

“It is a disaster. The landslide has affected around 1,000 families,” Mr Sayed Abdullah Homayun Dehqan, provincial director of the Afghan National Disaster Management Authority, told AFP. “Around 300 families are missing, that could involve around 2,000 people. People are working to remove the rocks, so far three bodies have been recovered."

“Around 700 families were rescued, we have sent in some basic assistance such as tents and blankets,” he added.

 
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