LANDSLIDES HAVE BURIED a village in northern Afghanistan, 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 said 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.”
Badakhshan is a remote, mountainous province in northeast Afghanistan bordering Tajikistan, China and Pakistan.
It has been relatively peaceful since the US-led military intervention began in 2001, but has seen increasing Taliban activity in recent years.
The landslides follow recent severe flooding in other parts of northern Afghanistan, with 150 people dead and 67,000 people affected by floods in Jowzjan, Faryab and Sar-e-Pul provinces.
Nearly 3,500 houses were damaged and destroyed by the floods, creating an urgent need for shelter, clean water, medical supplies, and food.
The floodwaters swept through villages, inundating thousands of homes and leaving many people seeking safety on the roofs of their houses.
The floods also destroyed farmland and killed livestock across the remote region.