Struggle to rescue the missing in Afghanistan landslide
(USA Today) -- An Afghan official says rescuers and hundreds of residents from nearby areas are trying to help people in a small village in northeastern Afghanistan hit by a massive landslide.
Abdullah Homayun Dehqan the director of Badakshan province's National Disaster Department says hundreds of local people have gathered near where the landslide hit Friday, armed with shovels.
But he said there are fears that another landslide might strike.
He said he did not have an exact figure on how many people were killed. The United Nations on Friday said at least 350 people were killed while the provincial governor said as many as 2,000 people were feared missing.
Rescuers have struggled to reach the remote area in northeastern Afghanistan. Heavy rains earlier this week contributed to the landslide.
Ari Gaitanis, from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, says the U.N. is working with authorities on the ground to rescue people still trapped.
Mark Bowden, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Afghanistan, said, "On behalf of the UN humanitarian agencies, I wish to extend our condolences to all those families who have lost loved ones as a result of these landslides. There have now been more Afghans killed through natural disasters in the past seven days than all of 2013."
"The foremost priority at the moment is saving as many lives as possible of those still beneath the rubble," Bowden said. "The UN system is fully engaged in the ongoing effort and is mobilizing more capacity and resources to bolster the response."
Provincial police chief, Fazluddin Ayar confirmed Friday that over 250 people were trapped following a landslide in Aab Khoshk village, the Khaama Press (KP) Afghan News Agency reports.
The landslide occurred about 12:30 p.m. Friday when a hill collapsed, said Provincial police chief, Fazluddin Ayar .
He said authorities evacuated a nearby village over concerns about further landslides.
More than 300 homes -- about a third of all the dwellings there -- have been buried, he said, the Associated Press reports.
The governor said rescue crews were working but didn't have enough equipment, particularly shovels.
"It's physically impossible right now," he said. "We don't have enough shovels; we need more machinery."
President Obama remarked on the tragedy during an appearance in Washington at a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
"I want to say on behalf of the American people our thoughts are with the people of Afghanistan who have experienced an awful tragedy," Obama said.
"Just as the United States has stood by the people of Afghanistan through a difficult decade, we stand ready to help our Afghan partners as they respond to this disaster," he added. "For even as our war there comes to an end this year, our commitment to Afghanistan and its people will endure."
Badakshan province, nestled in the Hindu Kush and Pamir mountain ranges and bordering China, is one of the most remote in the country. The area has seen few attacks from insurgents following the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan.
Globally, landslides cause billions of dollars in damages and thousands of deaths and injuries each year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The U.S.G.S. reports that some of the deadliest landslides in world history have occurred in Asia, including the estimated 100,000 people that died in a 1920 slide in China and a 1949 event that killed from 12,000 to 20,000 in what is now Tajikistan.
Contributing: Aamer Madhani, in Washington; Doyle Rice, in McLean, Va.; Associated Press
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