Afghanistan landslide: Rescuers search for missing

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Rescuers in Afghanistan are sifting through mud for a second day after a landslide that is feared to have buried at least 2,000 people.

The UN said more than 350 bodies had been recovered in the remote north-east Afghan province of Badakhshan.

Hundreds of homes were buried on Friday when a section of a mountain collapsed following torrential rain.

A second landslide then followed, killing the rescuers who had rushed in to help dig people out.

Local police handed out bread and water to the thousands of people who spent the night without shelter.

Much of north and east Afghanistan has been hit by heavy rain in recent days.

'Mass grave'

The provincial governor and UN officials told the BBC that more than 2,000 people were missing, feared dead.

The landslide site is expected to be designated as a mass grave, and a mass funeral is planned for later on Saturday, correspondents say.

Aidan O'Leary, head of UN operations in Kabul, said: "People have been working furiously throughout yesterday afternoon to try and undertake rescue efforts but unfortunately without success."

An excavator digs at the site of a landslide at the Hargu district in Badakhshan province, 3 May 2014 Much of the clearing work is being done by hand and shovels, although an excavator was also at the scene
Afghan National Army troops load supply for survivors of the Badakhshan landslide onto a helicopter in Kabul, 3 May 2014 With the likelihood of survivors fading, efforts are focused on bringing supplies to the displaced
People walk with their belongings near the site of a landslide at Badakhshan province, 3 May 2014 Hundreds of homes were buried under mud and rocks, leaving thousands of people without shelter

"We've had almost 300 homes buried under 10m (33ft) of mud, and with the scale and the speed of the onset it simply wasn't possible to rescue the lives that are there," he said, adding that about 4,000 people were displaced.

Analysis

Badakhshan in north-eastern Afghanistan is a mountainous province with remote and rustic districts. Every year, avalanches and mudslides affect communities there. But the mudslide in Hargu surprised many.

With more than 500 homes buried, villagers worked overnight hoping they could rescue some of those trapped under the mud.

Emergency workers arrived on Saturday morning with shovels and were confronted by the enormous scale of the destruction caused by the landslide.

The villagers and government rescue teams are using shovels, and a lot of the clearing is being done by hand. Large scale rescue operation is impossible as roads to the area cannot take heavy machinery.

For now, everyone in the area is focused on getting food, medicine and tents to hundreds of residents who have been displaced.

Meanwhile, Abdul Qadeer Sayad, a deputy police chief in Badakhshan, told Reuters that people from surrounding districts had "rushed to the area to help with the rescue".

"So far today no bodies have been recovered," he said.

The landslide hit on Friday morning, a day of rest in Afghanistan, meaning people were at home and whole families were lost under tonnes of mud.

About 1,000 houses were affected.

"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.

Remote region

The BBC's Qurbon Ali Hamzi in Badakhshan says 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.

The UN's Aidan O'Leary says relief efforts are being accelerated

Correspondents say it is one of the poorest regions in one of the poorest countries on earth, and it could be weeks before the full extent of the catastrophe is known.

Another, smaller landslide was reported in Badakhshan on Thursday.

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