At least 2,000 people were killed by landslides in northeastern Afghanistan in the worst natural disaster on record for the war-torn nation, an UN official said.
|In this photo provided by Homayoon Rahmani, the chief of road reconstruction program in the Afghan Rural and Rehabilitation Development Ministry, Afghans search for survivors after a massive landslide landslide buried a village Friday, May 2, 2014 in Badakhshan province, northeastern Afghanistan. (AP-Yonhap)|
The accident site in Badakhshan province has been declared a mass grave after the village of Ab-e-Barak was buried under 40 meters (130 feet) of mud and rocks, said Governor Shah Waliullah Adeeb. An additional 4,000 people have been displaced or relocated from villages at risk, according to Ari Gaitanis, a spokesman for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. Gaitanis provided the latest death toll today.
Afghanistan, with a population of about 31 million, is one of the poorest countries in Asia, weakened by decades of warfare and ethnic rivalries. The accident comes as the nation prepares for its first democratic transfer of power since the U.S. ousted the Taliban in 2001. Results of the first round of elections are due May 14.
The landslides were triggered by heavy rains in Badakhshan province bordering Tajikistan, where melting snow and seasonal showers make the region vulnerable to such calamities. The toll is more than double that of the worst natural disaster recorded in Afghanistan in May 1991 when floods killed 728 people, according to the international emergency disaster database of the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters.
Hundreds of volunteers were at the scene trying to dig out victims using shovels and other hand tools, according to Adeeb.
"We have no modern machinery,” he said. “It takes months to finish the work by using shovels.” As many as 2,700 people may be buried there, Adeeb said. (Bloomberg)
|In this photo provided by Homayoon Rahmani, chief of road reconstruction program in the Afghan Rural and Rehabilitation Development Ministry, Afghans search for survivors buried after a massive landslide in a village in Badakhshan province, northeastern Afghanistan. (AP-Yonhap)|