Death toll in Afghanistan flood rises to 80

Villagers carry away the body of one the many victims who died in the flood in northern Afghanistan. Picture: AFP/Getty
Villagers carry away the body of one the many victims who died in the flood in northern Afghanistan. Picture: AFP/Getty
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More than 80 bodies have been found after a devastating flash flood in Afghanistan’s mountainous and remote north, an official said yesterday, as police and villagers scoured the rugged terrain for missing people.

Lieutenant Fazel Rahman, the police chief in the Guzirga i-Nur district of Baghlan province, said the death toll from Friday’s disaster had climbed to 81 from 54. The flood destroyed some 850 houses across several villages and damaged more than 1,000, leaving thousands of people in need of shelter, food, water and medicine, Lt Rahman said.

Another police spokesman, Jawed Basharat, said the floods had left many people without any means to exist. “There’s nothing left for them to survive. People don’t even have drinking water,” Mr Basharat said.

The affected area is just 85 miles from the provincial capital, Puli Khumri, but the journey by land takes eight to nine hours. Local resident Sahib Nazar wept while recounting his own family’s losses.

“I have lost everything, my parents, my wife and five children,” he said. “I have buried my mother, wife and three of my children, but am still looking for my father and two other children’s bodies.”

Defence ministry spokesman General Mohammad Zahir Azimi said army helicopters assisted in relief efforts in the remote district. He added that local authorities had received around 100 tents, several hundred blankets and some food, but that more supplies were needed.

The Afghanistan Natural Disaster Management Authority said that it had stockpiles of food and other supplies in Baghlan province, and has begun transporting them to the affected area.

Afghan president Hamid Karzai has appointed a high-ranking government commission to accelerate emergency aid to the affected villages and expressed his “deep condolences” to those who lost loved ones.

Abdullah Abdullah, the front- runner in Afghanistan’s 14 June presidential run-off election, also visited the area yesterday.

Afghans living in the northern mountains have largely been spared from the country’s decades of war, but are no strangers to natural disasters.

Last month, a landslide triggered by heavy rain buried large sections of a remote village in the northeastern Badakhshan province bordering China, displacing some 700 families. Authorities have yet to provide an exact figure on the number of dead from the 2 May landslide, and estimates have ranged from 250 to 2,700. Officials said it was impossible to dig up all the bodies.

A landslide in Baghlan province in 2012 killed 71 people. After days of digging unearthed only five bodies, authorities gave up on the recovery effort and turned the area into a memorial.