Afghan landslide toll 2,000, India offers help

Kabul/New Delhi


The toll in Friday's landslide in Afghanistan has been put at 2,000 by rescue officials as India Saturday offered assistance in relief and rehabilitation efforts.

Rescue officials also said that the site may become a massive grave as the enormous amount of rubble is making the recovery of bodies almost impossible.

The tragedy occurred early Friday when a hill collapsed on a remote village in Aab Bareek area of Argo district in the mountainous province of Badakhshan with Faizabad city as its capital, 315 km northeast of Afghan capital Kabul, Xinhua reported.

The disaster was triggered by the recent heavy rains.

"The latest report by the provincial governor is that at least 2,000 have died in the landslides, buried under at least 10 metres of mud and debris," the UN mission in the country said.

"The immediate focus is on approximately 700 families (4,000+ people) displaced either directly as a result of this slide or as a precautionary measure from villages assessed to be at further risk. Key needs for them are water, medical support, counselling support, food and emergency shelter," the statement said.

There were about 300 homes in the village and a number of rescuers who had rushed from adjacent villages were also reported to be killed in subsequent slides, the statement said.

"Please keep in mind that the figures will remain proximate. Fear of a third landslide has hampered the rescue team operation," it said.

"A memorial ceremony is planned for later today and the site is expected to be designated as a mass grave. Also, second vice president Mohammad Karim Khalil is visiting today," it said.

All the relevant UN agencies together with the Afghan Red Crescent Society and NGO partners are already at the site since Friday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Saturday expressed shock at the devastating landslide and offered India's assistance in relief and rehabilitation efforts.

"I am deeply shocked and saddened by the devastating natural disaster that has struck Badakhshan province in Afghanistan," he said in a statement in New Delhi.

"The people of India stand with their Afghan friends in grieving for those who have perished or are missing. Our thoughts and prayers are with them in this hour of pain and sorrow. We know that the Afghan people will face up to this tragedy with their unmatched courage and fortitude.

"India stands ready to provide whatever assistance and support that we can for rescue, relief and rehabilitation efforts to help the victims of this enormous disaster," the prime minister said.- IANS