Afghanistan LandslideBy: Mirwais Jalalzai

The Afghan government on Saturday rejected reports regarding the death of over 2000 people following landslide in northeastern Badakhshan province.

Aimal Faizai, spokesman for President Hamid Karzai said around 250 to 350 people have been killed based on the information they have received.

Faizi said they are waiting to receive the report of Afghan government’s delegation who have visited disaster area.

Rescue operation by local people, police, and national volunteers armed with shovels started Saturday to help villagers hit by a massive landslide in the northeast Badakhshan province.

According to the reports from the affected areas in Argo district fears of a new torrent of mud and earth complicated rescue efforts.

Figures on the number of people killed in the disaster varied as officials try to gather precise information from the village of Ab-e-Barek.

The estimated number of dead on Saturday has surpassed 2500 people, according the local officials. This unseen land slide was caused by flooding related to ice and snow melt.

Still there are conflicting reports about death number, while the UN on Friday said at least 350 people died, and the provincial governor said as many as 3000 people were feared missing.

Villagers believe the number is higher, but the local officials of disaster management department said till now they can only confirm 255 deaths.

A local resident, Ahmadshah in phone interview said, “Search and rescue operations are going on very slowly, there is no bulldozers to remove the mud, there is no ambulances to care the injured people to the nearby hospitals.

The people are still searching the bodies of the trapped people, however fear of new landslides had slowed the operation.

“Badakhshan is a remote, mountainous region of Afghanistan, which has seen many natural disasters,” said the head of the IOM’s Afghanistan office, Richard Danziger. “But the scale of this landslide is absolutely devastating, with an entire village practically wiped away. Hundreds of families have lost everything.”

Friday’s damage was actually caused by two landslides from the hilly terrain. The first, smaller one covered a few houses. When people rushed in to help, a second, bigger landslide came down, burying the rescuers and more houses.