Afghanistan scrambles to assist 700 families displaced by landslide

Afghan authorities abandon search for survivors of the horrific landslide that wiped out the village of Abi Barik in Badakhshan province and focus on assisting the 700 families displaced by the slide.

By , Associated Press

Rescuers abandoned the search for survivors Saturday after a landslide buried an Afghan village, media reports said. Afghan officials said they thought that a maximum of about 500 people were feared dead in the landslide that engulfed the village of Hobo Bank in Hindu Kush under tonnes of rubble, Al Jazeera reported. According to Provincial Director of Disaster Management Department Sayyed Abdullah Homayyon Dehqan, up to 255 bodies were recovered and identified following the tragic incident in the northern Afghan province of Badakhshan. President Hamid Karzai Saturday announced May 4 as a day of mourning over the landslide tragedy, Afghanistan's Pajhwok news agency reported.

As Afghans observed a day of mourning Sunday for the hundreds of people killed in a horrific landslide, authorities tried to help the 700 families displaced by the torrent of mud that swept through their village.

The families left their homes due to the threat of more landslides in the village of Abi Barik in Badakhshan province, Minister for Rural Rehabilitation Wais Ahmad Barmak said.

Aid groups and the government have rushed to the remote area in northeastern Afghanistan bordering Tajikistan and China with food, shelter, and water.

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A spokesman for the International Organization of Migration, Matt Graydon, said the group is bringing solar-powered lanterns, blankets and shelter kits. He said after a visit to the area Sunday that some residents have gone to nearby villages to stay with family or friends while others have slept out in the open.

"Some people left with almost nothing," Graydon said.

Authorities gave $400,000 to the provincial governor Saturday to use in the aid effort, said Barmak, who promised the government would provide more money if it's needed.

President Hamid Karzai designated Sunday as a day of mourning for the hundreds of people who died in Abi Barik when a wall of mud and earth broke off from the hill above and turned part of the village into a cemetery.

Authorities still don't have an exact figure on how many people died in the landslide, Barmak said. Estimates have ranged from 250 to 2,700, but authorities have said it will be impossible to dig up all the bodies.

The government has identified 250 people who died and estimated that 300 houses were buried under tons of mud, Barmak said.

Afghanistan has suffered through some three decades of war since the Soviet invasion in 1979. But natural disasters such as landslides, floods and avalanches have taken a toll on a country with little infrastructure or development outside of its major cities.

Already this year, 159 people have died in April and May from flooding, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Sunday in a statement. New waves of flooding are expected in two northern provinces, the agency said.

Associated Press writer Rebecca Santana in Kabul contributed to this report.

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