Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Afghanistan landslide: Death Toll Rises To 2,000 And Counting

Photo: Afghan villagers and rescuers search desperately for survivors trapped under the mud in Argo district of Badakhshan province on May 3, 2014 after a massive landslide May 2 buried a village.
Afghan authorities have confirmed more than 2,100 people have been killed following a landslide which crashed into a remote mountain village in the country's north-east.

Villagers and a few dozen police, equipped with only basic digging tools, resumed their search when daylight broke on Saturday, but it soon became clear there was no hope of finding survivors buried in up to 100 metres of mud.

"More then 2,100 people from 300 families are all dead," said Naweed Forotan, a spokesman for the Badakhshan provincial governor.

The United Nations says the focus is now on the more than 4,000 people displaced by the disaster.

Officials have expressed concern the unstable hillside above the site of the disaster may cave in again, threatening the thousands of homeless and hundreds of rescue workers.

Triggered by heavy rain, the side of a mountain collapsed into the village in Argo district Friday morning (AEST) as people were trying to recover their belongings and livestock after a smaller landslip hit their homes a few hours earlier.

Villagers dug with their bare hands to try to find survivors under the mountain of mud, but officials said there was little hope of finding anyone alive given the scale of the disaster.
 Rescue efforts have been hampered by difficult conditions due to a week of heavy rain.

Seasonal rains and spring snow melt have caused heavy destruction across large swathes of northern Afghanistan, killing more than 100 people.

Afghanistan's president Hamid Karzai ordered Afghan officials to start emergency relief efforts immediately to reach the poor village.

A UN representative in Kabul said roads to the village were open but passage was not suitable for heavy machinery.

"Due to the size of the landslide, it is impossible to search for bodies without advanced machinery," Colonel Sayad said.

"We hope to get some machinery and aid soon."

Mark Bowden, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Afghanistan, said it may be some time yet until a clear picture of the full extent of the damage is known.

NATO-led coalition troops in the region were discussing search and rescue contributions with Afghan forces, the UN said.

US president Barack Obama, in remarks before a news conference at the White House with German chancellor Angela Merkel, expressed his condolences.

"Just as the United States has stood with the people of Afghanistan through a difficult decade, we stand ready to help our Afghan partners as they respond to this disaster, for even as our war there comes to an end this year, our commitment to Afghanistan and its people will endure," he said.

About 30,000 US soldiers remain in Afghanistan, although that number is falling as Washington prepares to withdraw by the end of this year all combat troops who battled Taliban insurgents.


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