A massive landslide triggered by heavy rains have buried a village in northern Afghanistan, and so far, 250 people have been confirmed dead and 100 injured. The landslide occurred on Friday, 2 May when a mountain side collapsed on the village of Hargu in Agro district in the province of Badakhshan. Initial reports from provincial authorities and Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) suggest that 300 houses have been buried. A total of 1,000 families lived in the Argo district which is located 60 kilometers from Fayzabad, the capital of Badakhshan province.
According to the provincial authorities, up to 700 families have left their homes due to the risk of more landslides. They are now at a neighbouring village, in humanitarian need of shelter, food, health assistance and various relief items such as tents, drinking water. Resources have been committed to meet these needs and distributions are expected to start on 3-4 May, access permitting. There is still a need for manpower in the area of search and rescue in the landslide-affected area.
Before initial information on the major landslide in Agor district came in, there were already reports of flash flooding in 14 districts in Badakhshan province. This suggests that the heavy rains that have fallen over large parts of Afghanistan in the past week contributed to or caused the landslides in Badakhshan.
The Provincial Disaster Management Committee (PDMC) will coordinate with Afghanistan National Disaster Management Agency (ANDMA) and humanitarian organizations present in the area, including ARCS, to allocate sectorial responsibilities for the humanitarian response. While search and rescue efforts for the missing will continue, addressing the needs of the displaced population in the affected area is a key humanitarian priority. The affected areas are part of the Hindu Kush mountain range and extremely remote.
Rainfall in the past week as well as landslides are likely to make access to the areas very difficult. Detailed and timely information on the situation in the area is likely to get out slowly and there will be challenges getting assistance to the areas. Local search and rescue operations is now the priority. However, rapid assessments have also been initiated to understand the full extent of the disaster.
The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Afghanistan, Mark Bowden, notes that more Afghans have been killed through natural disasters in the past seven days than all of 2013. In the last week, flooding and flash floods in nine Northern provinces killed up to 163 people, displacing 16,000 and affecting a further 50,000. In the province of Jawzjan alone, 27,000 people have been affected and across all the Northern provinces, up to 3,500 homes have been destroyed and the damage to public infrastructure and agricultural lands has been substantial. A separate Information Bulletin was published on the 30 April on the flood situation and Afghan Red Crescent response.
The whole northern region of Afghanistan have been experiencing recurring natural disasters such as floods, flashflood and landslides due to seasonal rain fall and spring snow melts. In 2012 the province of Badakhshan was hit by a series of avalanches, triggered by quickly rising temperatures during the month of March. Up to 80 people were killed by these avalanches.