UK & World News

  • 4 May 2014, 1:01

Hundreds Killed As Landslide Buries Village

At least 350 people have been killed after a landslide buried a village in Afghanistan.

Officials said the final death toll could be as high as 500 following Friday's disaster, updating earlier information that 2,500 people were feared dead.

Hundreds of Afghan volunteers joined the search for residents buried under the landslide after the fast-moving tide of rock and mud hit the northeastern village of Hobo Barik.

When people rushed to help victims trapped in the first landslide, a second, bigger landslide came down, burying some rescuers and more houses.

The area is remote and rescue teams have struggled to reach the scene. The tragedy came after heavy rain earlier in the week.

The community in Badakhshan province which borders Tajikistan in the country's northeast, has been buried in more than 300ft of mud (100 metres).

At least 100 people have been injured.

Badakhshan governor Shah Waliullah Adeeb said: "Based on our reports, 300 houses are under the debris. We have a list of around 300 people confirmed dead.

"We cannot continue the search and rescue operation anymore, as the houses are under metres of mud. We will offer prayers for the victims and make the area a mass grave."

Gul Mohammad Bedar, the deputy governor of Badakhshan, said: "The first figure (of 2,500 feared dead) that we announced was obtained from local people, not from our technical team.

"We think the death toll will not rise beyond 500."

Local people and dozens of police officers equipped with only basic digging tools began searching for survivors from first light on Saturday.

But it quickly became apparent there was no hope of finding anyone.

The United Nations says the focus is now on the thousands of people who have been displaced by the disaster.

A memorial service was planned, and the site is expected to be designated as a mass grave, according to UN spokesman Ari Gaitanis.

He added the survivors need water, medical support, counselling, food and emergency shelter.

British charities are mobilising teams to help with the rescue effort. Save the Children sent five ambulances to the scene and are planning to distribute blankets and give medical assistance.

Other charities are monitoring the situation and stand ready to provide assistance if necessary.

There are also fears that another section of the mountainside could collapse, threatening the homeless and hundreds of rescue workers.

The Afghan military flew rescue teams to the search area on Saturday because the remote mountain region is served by only narrow, poor roads that have been damaged by more than a week of heavy rain.

Nato-led coalition troops are ready to assist, but have not yet been asked for help by the Afghan government.

US President Barack Obama has also offered to send help.

Seasonal rains and spring snow melt have brought destruction to large parts of northern Afghanistan, killing more than 100 people.

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