BFF-53 Rescuers search for survivors of Afghan landslide: officials

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AFGHANISTAN-DISASTER-LANDSLIDE LEAD

Rescuers search for survivors of Afghan landslide: officials

ROKHA DISTRICT, Afghanistan, July 12, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Rescue efforts
were under way for survivors of a landslide in remote northeastern
Afghanistan on Thursday that officials said had killed at least six people
and destroyed hundreds of buildings.

Melting snow in the mountains of Panjshir, a province north of Kabul
known for its snowcapped peaks, had flooded a lake, sending water and mud
cascading over villages below, the disaster management ministry and local
officials said.

At least 10 villages had been “badly affected” with hundreds of homes,
shops and cars destroyed, the Panjshir governor’s office said in a statement.

The torrent of water and mud had caused the Panjshir River, which snakes
through the valley, to burst its banks.

At least six people had been confirmed dead, the governor’s statement
said, warning the toll could rise.

Omar Mohammadi, a spokesman for the disaster management ministry, earlier
told AFP that 10 people had been confirmed dead.

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 told AFP 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 his 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 landslides,
he added.

Photos posted on social media purportedly showed houses and farmland
covered in water and mud from the swollen Panjshir River.

Deputy director of the disaster management ministry Mohammad Qasim
Haidari said search and rescue teams were in the area and packages of food,
water, blankets and tents were being sent to the displaced villagers.

About 10 people were missing, Haidari said.

Villagers using shovels and other tools were also searching for survivors
in the debris, Mohammadi said.

“We have deployed everything at hand to help the people,” Mohammadi said.

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

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.

BSS/AFP/ARS/1723 hrs