Satellite analysis reveals massive size of Afghan landslide

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08 May 2014, Geneva, Switzerland - Heavy rains that begun in April in northern Afghanistan have caused flooding and one catastrophic landslide that killed an unknown number of people. Additional flash floods and landslides continue to affect tens of thousands of people in many parts of the northern region while forecasts indicate more bad weather is to be expected.

UNOSAT started to monitor the situation using satellite imagery when heavy rains set in as part of seasonal rains in the last week of April. A first map published by the Team on 1 May showed evidence of widespread flooding due to intense precipitation over a large area in Jawzjan province. Only one day later, on 2 May, a massive landslide occurred in Argo district, which killed an unknown number of people after the side of a mountain gave way, burying the village of Ab-e-Barak under meters of mud and rocks. Afghan authorities think that the bodies of all victims may never be recovered. According to IFRC figures, in addition to the landslide, 163 people were killed by flooding across ten provinces by 5 May. Humanitarian agencies in the field believe that the number of people killed in the landslide is very likely to increase dramatically.

The International Charter Space and Major Disaster was triggered for this emergency in April. After the landslide, space agencies part of the Charter contributed also satellite data essential to the UNOSAT analysis of the extent and location of the disaster. All maps produced by UNOSAT using Space Charter data are visible also on the Space Charter website.