Afghanistan: Floods wreak havoc in eastern provinces of Laghman, Nangarhar

KABUL, 3 September 2009 (IRIN) - Flash floods killed at least 11 and damaged dozens of houses in Alingar District, Laghman Province, eastern Afghanistan on 2 September, according to provincial officials.

"So far five bodies have been found and search and rescue activities are ongoing in the affected areas," Sayed Ahmad Sapai, a spokesman for the Laghman governor's office, told IRIN, adding that most victims were children and women.

"Some people have lost their homes, agricultural land, fruit trees and livestock in the floods," he said without specifying the exact extent of the damage.

A rapid assessment was planned on 3 September to identify immediate needs. This will be followed by essential aid delivery, officials said.

Flash floods also affected several areas in the neighbouring province of Nangarhar on 31 August.

"An Afghan Red Crescent Society-led assessment [team] estimated a total of 4,000 people affected, mostly in Jalalabad city [provincial capital], with damage also recorded in the Sorkhorood, Kuzkunar, Rodat, Chaparhar, and Behsood districts [of Nangarhar]," the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a report on 2 September.

The assessment reported 11 casualties (four dead, seven injured), 289 houses destroyed and 234 damaged, and 30 livestock killed in Nangarhar Province.

A bridge connecting Jalalabad with Torkham on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border was also destroyed by floods, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said.

UN agencies, NGOs and local authorities started delivering relief items to those affected in Nangarhar on 1 September, but aid agencies were concerned the situation could worsen as more rainfall was expected in the region, according to UNAMA.

OCHA said adequate capacity and resources were available at the regional level, and praised the coordination among aid actors. "OCHA urges all agencies to release their stocks as soon as possible and to engage community leaders in the distribution to ensure that the affected families receive necessary assistance."

Aid workers are also worried about a possible malaria outbreak in the flood-affected areas as stagnant water could create a fertile breeding ground for mosquitoes.

About 400,000 people in Afghanistan are seriously affected every year by disasters such as floods, earthquakes, avalanches and drought, according to OCHA.