Heavy Rain Triggers Landslide in Afghanistan; 350 Dead and Over 2,000 Missing

May 3, 2014

Afghans search for survivors after a massive landslide landslide buried a village Friday, May 2, 2014 in Badakhshan province, northeastern Afghanistan.

A week of heavy rain and snowmelt triggered landslides in a remote mountain village in Afghanistan Friday, killing at least 350 people and trapping more than 2,000 under the rocks and debris.

A hill collapsed on the village of Hobo Barik around midday in the war-torn country's northeastern Badakhshan province near the borders with China and Tajikistan. Nearly 300 homes were buried – about a third of all houses there, Badakhshan province Gov. Shah Waliullah Adeeb said. Friday is a day of worship in Afghanistan, so many families would have been at home instead of at work at the time.

"There were more than 1,000 families living in that village. A total of 2,100 people — men, women and children — are trapped," Naweed Forotan, a spokesman for the Badakhshan governor, told Reuters.

The New York Times reports that neighbors who rushed to help were buried by a subsequent slide as they searched the sodden mud for survivors.

A week of seasonal heavy rains combined with spring snowmelt has reaped destruction across Northern Afghanistan, killing hundreds in widespread flash flooding, reports.

(MORE: Families Evacuated after Baltimore Landslide)

Officials from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said at least 350 people died in the landslide on Friday alone. Search and rescue operations were slow due to a lack of equipment and fears for additional slides.

"Search and rescue operations are going on very slowly," Afghanistan deputy director of the Natural Disaster Management Authority, Mohammad Aslam Seyas, told the Associated Press.

Ahmad Khan Nafeh, another official with the authority, said that at this point, survivors were unlikely.

"I don't think any human who would have been buried under all that mud for more than 12 hours or so, would have been alive," Nafeh said.

U.N. officials told the Associated Press that a memorial ceremony is being planned today and the landslide is expected to be designated as a mass grave.

For the people who live in Afghanistan's rugged northern mountains, avalanches are a frequent fact of life. The deadliest slide in the past several years occurred in February 2010, when more than 170 people were killed at the 12,700-foot-high Salang Pass, which is the major route through the Hindu Kush mountains that connects the capital to the north.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

MORE: Afghanistan Landslide

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