Flash floods kill more than 50 in northern Afghanistan

Officials warn of further casualties as at least 50 people lose their lives in the second wave of devastating floods to hit mountainous north Afghanistan in a month

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 June, 2014, 7:32pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 June, 2014, 7:32pm

Flash floods have killed more than 50 people in northern Afghanistan, washing away hundreds of homes and forcing thousands to flee, officials said on Saturday as they warned the death toll was expected to rise.

The floods in the remote mountainous district of Baghlan province come a month after a landslide triggered by heavy rains buried a village and killed 300 people in a nearby region.

The twin disasters highlight the challenges facing underdeveloped Afghanistan’s next leader as the country heads into the second round of the presidential election on June 14.

“People have lost everything they had – houses, property, villages, agricultural fields, cattle,” Baghlan police spokesman Jawed Basharat said.

“There’s nothing left for them to survive. People don’t even having drinking water,” he added. “They urgently need water, food items, blankets and tents.”

Afghan disaster management officials said they were scrambling to get food and medical aid to the area after torrential rains unleashed the floods.

Officials recovered scores of dead bodies from the area, including women and children, with several people said to be missing, according to a spokesman for the provincial governor.

“Heavy torrential rains followed by flash floods have killed more than 50 people in Guzargah-e-Nur district of Baghlan province,” Mahmood Haqmal told reporters, warning that the initial death toll was expected to rise.

“Floods have forced thousands of people to flee their houses, and move to safer areas.”

The governor of Guzargah-e-Nur, Noor Mohammad Guzar, said the death toll was 66.

“Yesterday’s floods have destroyed four villages, and washed away 2,000 residential houses, agricultural fields and also killed thousands of cattle,” Guzar added.

Officials were assessing the extent of the damage on life and property in the affected area, the deputy head of the National Disaster Management Authority said.

“Our teams have also provided some edibles [food items] and medication to the affected people. More aid will get there soon,” said Mohammad Aslam Sayas.

But Basharat, the Baghlan police spokesman, claimed that the affected families had received no assistance so far from the central government or relief agencies.

Last month a landslide triggered by heavy rains buried a village in a remote area of northeast Badakhshan province killing at least 300 people.

The May 2 disaster left hundreds of families homeless in Argu district of the mountainous province that borders Tajikistan, China and Pakistan.

The floods and landslides follow recent severe flooding that have affected a vast swathe of Afghanistan, particularly northern provinces, with 175 people dead and tens of thousands displaced.

Flooding and landslides often occur during the spring rainy season in northern Afghanistan, with flimsy mud houses offering little protection against rising water levels and torrents of mud.

Afghan presidential front-runner Abdullah Abdullah faces former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani in next week’s run-off vote.