KABUL/Washington - A landslide in north Afghanistan killed at 350 people on Friday, the United Nations said, adding that a major relief operation was underway to rescue those still trapped.
‘The number of deceased has increased to 350 and significant displacement is expected,’ the UN mission in Afghanistan said in a statement. ‘The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is helping with coordinating local authorities to rescue those still trapped.’ Moreover, At least 250 people were missing as emergency relief teams rushed to the area to search for survivors. ‘About 250 to 400 people are missing,’ Badakhshan province deputy governor, Gul Mohammad Baidaar told AFP. ‘About 350 to 400 houses were destroyed in Argo district as a result of heavy rains that triggered landslides.
‘The death toll is not known but it might increase as officials go to the scene along with rescue teams to recover bodies,’ he said. ‘We don’t have any more information for now, as the network connection is poor in that part of the province.’ Badakhshan is a remote province in northeast Afghanistan bordering Tajikistan, China and Pakistan.
‘The information that we received from our offices says around 600 families live in Aab Bareek village of Argo,’ Mohammad Daim Kakar, head of the National Disaster Management Authority in Kabul, told AFP. ‘Over the past couple of days, there were rains in this remote village, and it was followed by landslides.
‘As a result, 250 families were affected, and our sources say 300 to 500 people are missing. ‘Around 400 people were rescued, some left the area beforehand, fearing the risks of landslides.’ The disaster follows 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.
US President Barack Obama on Friday bemoaned the ‘awful tragedy’ in Afghanistan where hundreds of people are missing after a landslide. ‘Our thoughts are with the people of Afghanistan who have experienced an awful tragedy,’ Obama said. ‘Many people are reported missing. We stand ready to help our Afghan partners as they respond to this disaster,’ Obama said at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. At least 250 people were missing after a landslide buried villages in northern Afghanistan in the province of Badakhshan, a remote area bordering Tajikistan, China and Pakistan.
The floodwaters swept through villages, engulfing thousands of homes and leaving many people seeking safety on the roofs of their mud-brick houses. The floodwaters destroyed farmland and also killed livestock across the remote region. Flooding often occurs during the spring rainy season in northern Afghanistan, with flimsy mud houses offering little protection against rising water levels. Two weeks ago, a landslide triggered by heavy rains and a small earthquake swept through two villages in the northern province of Takhar, killing four people and destroying around 100 houses. In the last major flooding in Afghanistan, 40 people died in August in flash floods in eastern and southeastern provinces and some districts of the capital Kabul.
Neighbouring Pakistan suffered the worst floods in its history in 2010 when almost 1,800 people died and 21 million people were affected.
The death toll from landslides that buried a village in northern Afghanistan on Friday could reach as high as 2,500, the governor of Badakhshan province told AFP. ‘Our initial findings, based on local people's reports, show around 2,500 people including women and children might be dead as a result of these landslides,’ governor Shah Waliullah Adeeb told AFP by telephone.