The Times West Virginian

Headline News

May 4, 2014

Rescuers struggle to help Afghans struck by landslide

ABI BARIK, Afghanistan — Afghan rescuers and volunteers armed with shovels and little more than their bare hands dug through the mud Saturday after a massive landslide swept through a village the day before, turning it into an earthen tomb holding hundreds of bodies, officials said.

The government and aid groups rushed to bring food, water and shelter to the survivors as the government tried to ascertain just how many people were killed in the latest natural disaster to hit a country already reeling from nearly three decades of war.

Figures on the number of people killed and missing in the disaster Friday varied from 255 to 2,700. Fears of a new landslide complicated rescue efforts, as homes and residents sat buried under meters (yards) of mud.

“That will be their cemetery,” said Mohammad Karim Khalili, one of the country’s two vice presidents, who visited the scene Saturday. “It is not possible to bring out any bodies.”

Though figures on the death toll varied, residents knew the toll the tragedy had taken on their own families.

From atop a muddy hill, Begam Nesar pointed to the torrent of earth below that had wiped out much of her village. “Thirteen of my family members are under the mud,” she said, including her mother, father, brothers, sisters and children. She said she had been visiting relatives at a nearby village when the disaster struck.

The United Nations said Friday at least 350 people died, and the provincial governor said as many as 2,000 people were feared missing. On Saturday, the International Organization of Migration said information they gathered indicated 2,700 people were dead or missing.

Part of the confusion lay in the fact that no one knew how many people were home when the landslide struck.

At least 255 people were confirmed dead, Khalili said. Most of those were people who had rushed to the scene to help after a previous, smaller landslide. When a bigger landslide hit, those people along with roughly 300 homes were wiped out. But since no one knows how many people were in those homes, counting the dead is difficult, Khalili said.

Mohammad Aslam Seyas, deputy director of the Natural Disaster Management Authority, said fears of new landslides had slowed the operation.

The ground on a hill overlooking the village was soaked from recent heavy rainfalls that officials believe triggered the slide. About 1 kilometer (more than half a mile) away, government and aid groups set up tents for those displaced.

Few had time to flee before the mud wall caved in.

Sunatullah, a local farmer, was outside when he felt the earth start to move. He ran to his house, grabbed his wife and children and then ran to the top of a nearby hill. Minutes later, he said, part of the hill collapsed.

“The houses were just covered in mud,” he said, adding that he had lost 10 members of his extended family, his house and his livestock.

Authorities distributed food and water to survivors, said Abdullah Homayun Dehqan, the head of Badakhshan province’s National Disaster Department.

But residents were worried about more natural disasters to come.

“There are four valleys from where water can flow in here. If water flows in, the whole village would be under water,” said Jaan Mohammed.

Rescuers have struggled to reach the remote area, roughly 320 kilometers (200 miles) from the capital, Kabul. There is little development or infrastructure. Even getting heavy equipment such as bulldozers to the site — accessible only by narrow and bumpy dirt roads — was difficult. Most residents live in single-story mud houses that were no match to the rush of earth.

A spokesman for the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force said they have not received any requests to help out with the disaster.

Badakhshan province borders Tajikistan to the north and China and Pakistan to the east.

“Badakhshan is a remote, mountainous region of Afghanistan, which has seen many natural disasters,” said the head of the IOM’s Afghanistan office, Richard Danziger. “But the scale of this landslide is absolutely devastating, with an entire village practically wiped away. Hundreds of families have lost everything.”

In addition to the wars and fighting that have plagued Afghanistan for roughly three decades, the country has been subject to repeated natural disasters including landslides and avalanches. A landslide in 2012 killed 71 people. Authorities were not able to recover the vast majority of bodies and ended up declaring the site a massive grave.

1
Text Only
Headline News
  • Congress OKs VA, highway bills, not border measure

    Congress ran full-tilt into election-year gridlock over immigration Thursday and staggered toward a five-week summer break after failing to agree on legislation to cope with the influx of young immigrants flocking illegally to the United States.

    August 1, 2014

  • U.S. warns against traveling to Ebola-hit countries

    U.S. health officials on Thursday warned Americans not to travel to the three West African countries hit by an outbreak of Ebola.
    The travel advisory applies to nonessential travel to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where the deadly disease has killed more than 700 people this year.

    August 1, 2014

  • As job market strengthens, many don’t feel it

    For millions of workers, happy days aren’t quite here again.
    Though the U.S. unemployment rate has plunged since the start of last year to a five-year low of 6.1 percent, the Gallup Organization has found that consumers’ view of the economy is the glummest it’s been in seven months.

    August 1, 2014

  • State Dept.: ‘No American is proud’ of CIA tactics

    The State Department has endorsed the broad conclusions of a harshly critical Senate report on the CIA’s interrogation and detention practices after the 9/11 attacks, a report that accuses the agency of brutally treating terror suspects and misleading Congress, according to a White House document.

    August 1, 2014

  • West Africa Ebola outbreak tops 700 deaths

    The worst recorded Ebola outbreak in history surpassed 700 deaths in West Africa as the World Health Organization on Thursday announced dozens of new fatalities.

    July 31, 2014

  • Suing Obama: GOP-led House gives the go-ahead

    A sharply divided House approved a Republican plan Wednesday to launch a campaign-season lawsuit against President Barack Obama, accusing him of exceeding the bounds of his constitutional authority. Obama and other Democrats derided the effort as a stunt aimed at tossing political red meat to conservative voters.

    July 31, 2014

  • Obama takes tougher line against casualties in Gaza

    The Obama administration condemned the deadly shelling of a United Nations school in Gaza Wednesday, using tough, yet carefully worded language that reflects growing White House irritation with Israel and the mounting civilian casualties stemming from its ground and air war against Hamas.

    July 31, 2014

  • House approves VA overhaul

    The House overwhelmingly approved a landmark bill Wednesday to help veterans avoid long waits for health care that have plagued the Veterans Affairs Department for years.
    The $16.3 billion measure also would allow the VA to hire thousands of doctors and nurses and rewrite employment rules to make it easier to fire senior executives judged to be negligent or performing poorly.

    July 31, 2014

  • Contract dispute delays ‘Big Bang Theory’ production

    Production on a new season of “The Big Bang Theory” is being delayed because of a contract dispute with its top actors.

    July 30, 2014

  • What’s a group selfie? An usie

    What do you call a group selfie? An usie, of course!

    July 30, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads