35 members of family die in Afghan mudslide

2014-05-04 19:21
Afghans search for survivors after a massive landslide buried a village in Badakhshan province. (Ahmad Zubair, AP)

Afghans search for survivors after a massive landslide buried a village in Badakhshan province. (Ahmad Zubair, AP)

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Kabul - Thirty-five people in a single family died in the mudslide that buried a village in north-eastern Afghanistan, an official said Sunday.

"I met an old man who had survived but lost 35 members of his family," said Gul Ahmad Bedar, the deputy governor of Badakhshan province, where Friday's mudslide occurred.

He said 300 bodies had been recovered in Ab-e-Barik village in Argu district before the search operation was halted on Saturday.

About 2 000 people are estimated to be missing, but officials said the possibility of finding survivors at that point was hopeless.

"We shared our decision with the villagers to announce the mudslide area as a mass grave and build a memorial minaret in the centre of the village," Bedar said by telephone.

Officials plan to block off the area, but the surviving villagers disagreed.

Many were adamant about their need to find their loved ones, see them one last time and bury them.

They said they were holding discussions and planned to respond to the officials.

In the meantime, some villagers on Sunday continued digging with shovels in the muck.

The Afghan government declared on Sunday a national day of mourning and ordered flags to fly at half-mast as it dispatched relief supplies to the survivors.

At least 700 families have been displaced in the disaster, including those in neighbouring areas who were evacuated as a precautionary measure because the ground remained unstable after heavy rains, officials said.

Bedar said the government has set aside $700 000 for aid and rehabilitation and has provided 230 tons of food, medicine and tents.

"We have also set aside a plot of land to build residences for the people who have lost their houses," Bedar said.

The Afghan Red Crescent Society, World Food Program, Unicef, International Organisation for Migrants and Aga Khan Development Foundation has also supplied relief goods for the victims, he said.

Humanitarian organisations have started providing health care to the survivors, and local officials are working to arrange support for orphans.

Businessmen and political leaders also donated cash to the village fund. The UN Office for the Coordinator of Humanitarian Affairs said about 1,000 families are affected and 300 houses destroyed.

"These families are largely being accommodated with host families, and tents have been distributed by NGOs and UN agencies," it said, adding that the World Food Programme has delivered 80.43 metric tons of food to the area and the United Nations was assessing what further help would be needed.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon "is deeply saddened by the loss of life in Afghanistan as a result of the landslide", a statement said.

"United Nations agencies and humanitarian partners are supporting the government of Afghanistan in providing assistance to those who have been displaced and stand ready to coordinate efforts to increase the resilience of communities at risk of natural disasters," it said.

Read more on:    afghanistan

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