KABUL, Afghanistan — About 500 villagers were killed as landslides triggered by heavy rains buried homes in Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province bordering Tajikistan, the United Nations said.
Afghan officials revised the estimated death down sharply from early reports that said as many as 2,500 people might have been killed.
"The first figure that we announced was obtained from local people, not from our technical team," Gul Mohammad Bedar, the deputy provincial governor of Badakhshan, told AFP. "We think the dead toll will not rise beyond 500."
As many as 700 families have been displaced by the disaster or relocated from villages assessed to be at risk, Ari Gaitanis, a spokesman for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, said by e-mail today. President Hamid Karzai dispatched teams to rescue and help people in the area, according to a statement from his office.
“There were about 300 homes in the village of Ab Barak and a number of rescuers who rushed from adjacent villages are also reported to have been killed in subsequent slides,” said Gaitanis. Heavy rains caused floods in the nation’s northern provinces killing more than 100 people last week.
“There have now been more Afghans killed through natural disasters in the past seven days than all of 2013,” Mark Bowden, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Afghanistan, said in a statement yesterday. “The foremost priority at the moment is saving as many lives as possible of those still beneath the rubble.”
The landslides occurred in Ab-e-Khoshk village, Karzai’s office said. Authorities evacuated nearby settlements following the disaster, which occurred around 1 p.m. local time yesterday, AP reported.
“Humanitarian entities are on the ground, although road access to the affected area is secondary but good,” Gaitanis said. Still, the roads “cannot take heavy machinery,” he said.
Seasonal rains and melting snow makes northern Afghanistan susceptible to recurring natural disasters, according to the UN statement.
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