• Saturday, November 01, 2014

Afghan landslide missing search ends

BBC Online
People stand near the site of a landslide at Badakhshan province May 3. Photo: Reuters
People stand near the site of a landslide at Badakhshan province May 3. Photo: Reuters

Rescuers in Afghanistan have given up hope of finding any more survivors in a double landslide that is feared to have killed more than 2,500 people.

They have stopped digging through the earth and mud that swamped a whole village in the remote north-east province of Badakhshan on Friday.

Officials now say the site has become a mass grave for the village of Ab Barik.

Aid, including tents, food and water, has begun to arrive for the survivors.

They spent Friday night camped out in near freezing conditions on the open hillside.

The scene here is pretty desolate and distraught. The families who survived, a few hundred people, are at the top of the valley. The women and children sit on the open hillside where they spent the night. The men are lining up for aid and trying to secure their shelter.

There are perhaps 100 or so tents that have now been put up. They arrived on Saturday, along with some food and blankets.

At the bottom of the valley, there is little evidence left of where the village was because the mud is so deep.

Officials here say it is very unlikely any of the bodies will be found. People have now given up the search because they realise it is hopeless.

It may be that we never have a final figure for the number of dead.

The BBC's David Loyn, who has arrived at the scene, described it as desolate and distraught as the surviving villagers try to settle in to their temporary new homes on the hillside.

He said heavy rain is believed to have triggered Friday's two landslides, the first of which buried hundreds of homes and the second then killed rescuers who had arrived at the scene to help reach survivors.

'PRAYERS'

Attempts to dig through the thick mud to find survivors continued into Saturday, with people using shovels and even their bare hands.

But the last of the diggers had given up by later on in the day, realising their efforts are futile, our correspondent reports.

"We cannot continue the search and rescue operation anymore, as the houses are under metres of mud," provincial governor Shah Waliullah Adeeb said.

"We will offer prayers for the victims and make the area a mass grave."

The landslide buried around 370 homes, which officials say housed in total some 2,500 people.

The UN says only 350 bodies have so far been recovered.

The landslides hit on Friday morning, a day of rest in Afghanistan, meaning whole families would have been at home at the time.

After the first landslide struck, residents from a neighbouring village came to the rescue only to be caught by a second landslide that brought down the entire side of one hill and thousands of tonnes of mud and earth.

"Seven members of my family were here when the landslide happened," one woman who survived said.

"Four or five people were killed here but four or five are alive. I am also half alive, what can I do?" she added.

Continuing rain has raised fears of further landslides.

Badakhshan is in the most remote and mountainous part of the country, bordering Tajikistan, China and Pakistan.

It is one of the poorest regions in one of the poorest countries.

Another, smaller landslide was reported in Badakhshan on Thursday.

Published: 10:55 am Sunday, May 04, 2014

Last modified: 7:59 pm Sunday, May 04, 2014

TAGS: Afghanistan landslide Badakhshan

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