Rescuers scrambled yesterday to deliver food and medical supplies to Afghan families marooned on mountaintops after flash floods killed 80 people in a remote northern district, washing away hundreds of homes and forcing thousands to flee.
The death toll was expected to rise, with scores of people said to be missing in Baghlan Province after torrential rains on Friday, last week.
The floods come a month after a landslide triggered by heavy rains buried a village and killed 300 people in a nearby region.
The twin disasters highlight the challenges facing underdeveloped Afghanistan’s next leader as the country heads into the second round of the presidential election on Saturday.
“People have lost everything they had — houses, property, villages, agricultural fields, cattle,” Baghlan police spokesman Jawed Basharat said about the floods.
“There’s nothing left for them to survive. People don’t even having drinking water... They urgently need water, food items, blankets and tents,” he added
Basharat said the Afghan army was battling to deliver aid to the affected families, many of whom have fled to mountaintops to escape floodwaters.
Afghanistan’s defense ministry had dispatched two helicopters to deliver aid packages to the area as roads and mountain passes were left devastated by the floods, said Obaidullah Ramin, a lawmaker from Baghlan Province.
“Some 9 kilometers of roads were destroyed by floodwaters, so officials are trying to deliver aid by air,” Ramin told reporters.
“Relief agencies have distributed some aid, but it is not enough. The problems of the flood-affected people need to be addressed fully,” he said, adding that he had toured the affected areas.
Most disaster management officials were difficult to reach yesterday due to poor telecommunication networks in the remote area.
The governor of the province, Sultan Mohammad Ebadi, had earlier said the death toll stood at 74, warning that the extent of the disaster was “massive” and that the toll was expected to rise.
Bodies of women and children were among those recovered, the Afghan National Disaster Management Authority said, adding that scores of people were missing.
“There is a lot of stagnant water, and there are more bodies under the rubble and mud. We are still looking for other victims of this flood,” Mohammad Nasim Kohzad, head of the authority in Baghlan, told reporters.
The governor of the remote district of Guzargah-e-Nur confirmed that scores of bodies had been recovered by authorities.
“The floods destroyed four villages, and washed away 2,000 residential houses, agricultural fields and also killed thousands of cattle,” Noor Mohammad Guzar told reporters.
Officials were further assessing the extent of the damage on life and property in the affected area, said Mohammad Aslam Sayas, the deputy head of the National Disaster Management Authority.
“Our teams have also provided some edibles and medication to the affected people. More aid will get there soon,” he said.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in a statement he was saddened by the loss of life and property in Baghlan Province.
He directed disaster management officials to dispatch emergency relief aid to affected families.
Last month a landslide triggered by heavy rains buried a village in a remote area of northeast Badakhshan Province, killing at least 300 people.