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Afghanistan

Search for survivors after Afghanistan landslide destroys 300 homes

A mountain lake in Panjsher, a province known for its snowcapped peaks north of Kabul, overflowed and caused the landslide

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 July, 2018, 4:29pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 July, 2018, 5:47pm

A landslide destroyed nearly 300 homes, killing at least 10 people, as it swept through an Afghan village where residents were using only basic digging tools to search for survivors, officials said.

A mountain lake in Panjsher, a province north of Kabul known for its snowcapped peaks, overflowed and sent water and mud cascading over Peshghor village, Omar Mohammadi, spokesman for the disaster management ministry, said.

Jamil Ahmad was lying in bed just before midnight when he said he heard a sound like “jets” flying overhead.

“Somebody shouted ‘Flood!’ and I ran away with my family to higher ground,” Ahmad said by telephone.

“The people started firing (weapons) into the air to warn others about the flood.”

The water and mud had inundated most of the houses in the village, and destroyed a religious school, two mosques and the main market, Ahmad said.

“Three women from my neighbourhood and two labourers who didn’t hear the warning were taken away by the flood,” Ahmad said.

Villagers had been worried about the possibility of landslides after several days of increasingly warm weather, Ahmad said.

Most survivors were staying on higher ground for fear of more, he added.

Photos posted on social media purportedly showed houses and farmland covered in water and mud after the Panjsher River broke its banks.

Villagers using shovels and other tools were desperately searching for survivors in the debris as rescue teams were deployed to the area, Mohammadi said.

“We have deployed everything at hand to help the people,” he said. “Some people are missing.”

Disasters such as avalanches and flash floods often hit in mountainous areas of Afghanistan as snow melts in the spring and summer. It is made worse by deforestation.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who is in Brussels for the Nato summit, said he was “deeply saddened” by the latest natural disaster.

“A number of people have lost their lives” in the landslide, Ghani said in a statement.

He ordered “relevant authorities to provide urgent assistance to the affected people”.

The landslide comes as the country is in the grip of a nearly 17-year war between Afghan security forces and the Taliban.