3 May 2014

Afghan landslide buries 2100 villagers

11:40 pm on 3 May 2014

Thousands of people - including whole families in hundreds of households - have been killed after a landslide crashed into a remote mountain village in northeast Afghanistan.

"More than 2100 people from 300 families are all dead," Naweed Forotan, said a spokesman for the Badakhshan provincial governor.

The United Nations said the focus was now on caring for another 4000 people displaced from other villages also threatened by slips.

Officials said there was a possibility of further landslides at the same site, and that police and villagers searching the mud and rock for survivors were risking their lives.

Surviving villagers and a few dozen police were searching, equipped with only basic digging tools.

The Afghan military flew rescue teams to the area on Saturday and they managed to get one excavator to the scene.

Volunteers search for survivors with their hands and a few shovels.

Volunteers search for survivors with their hands and a few shovels. Photo: AFP

Hundreds of homes were buried on Friday when a section of a mountain collapsed following torrential rain.

Local police handed out bread and water to the thousands of people who spent the night without shelter.

Much of north and east Afghanistan has been hit by heavy rain in recent days, with up to 150mm falling just before the landslide.

"The number of deceased has increased to 350 and significant displacement is expected," the UN mission in Afghanistan said.

"The UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is helping local authorities to rescue those still trapped."

Survivors unlikely

But the BBC reported rescue efforts were rudimentary and survivors were unlikely to be found.

About 1000 houses were affected - 300 of them buried immediately after the side of a mountain gave way.

Hundreds of home were buried under mud and rocks, leaving thousands of people without shelter

The landslide hit on Friday morning, a day of rest in Afghanistan, meaning people were at home and whole families were lost under tonnes of mud.

Badakhshan police commander Fazludeen Ayaz told the BBC that all of the village of Hargu was covered by earth and rock.

He said it was unlikely that any survivors would be found under the rubble and that even if there was rescue equipment available in the remote area, it would be difficult to dig people out.

The governor of Badakhshan province, Shah Waliullah Adeeb, said that rescue crews did not have enough equipment and appealed for shovels.

"It's physically impossible right now," Mr Adeeb said. "We don't have enough shovels; we need more machinery.''

He said that residents of nearby villages had been evacuated amid concerns about further landslides.

The BBC's Qurbon Ali Hamzi in Badakhshan said continuing rain had raised fears of further landslides.

Badakhshan is in the most remote and mountainous part of the country, bordering Tajikistan, China and Pakistan.

Another, smaller landslide was reported in Badakhshan on Thursday.

Heavy rain and melting snow have already caused extensive damage across large parts of northern Afghanistan, killing more than 100 people.