At least 350 dead, thousands missing in Afghan landslide


by Doug Stanglin, USA TODAY

Posted on May 2, 2014 at 12:06 PM

Updated Friday, May 2 at 12:06 PM

A landslide triggered by heavy rains buried a village in northeastern Afghanistan on Friday, killing at least 350 people according to a U.N. official.

Ari Gaitanis, from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, says the U.N. is working with authorities on the ground to rescue people still trapped.

According to Badakshan Provincial police chief, Fazluddin Hayar, as many as 2,000 people are missing and dozens are trapped under rocks, the Khaama Press (KP) Afghan News Agency reports.

The landslide occurred about 1 p.m. Friday when a hill collapsed on the village of Hobo Bank, said Badakshan province Gov. Shah Waliullah Adeeb.

He said authorities evacuated a nearby village over concerns about further landslides.

More than 300 homes -- about a third of all the dwellings there -- have been buried, he said, the Associated Press reports.

The governor said rescue crews were working but didn't have enough equipment, particularly shovels.

"It's physically impossible right now," he said. "We don't have enough shovels; we need more machinery."

Badakshan province, nestled in the Hindu Kush and Pamir mountain ranges and bordering China, is one of the most remote in the country. The area has seen few attacks from insurgents following the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan.

Globally, landslides cause billions of dollars in damages and thousands of deaths and injuries each year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The U.S.G.S. reports that some of the deadliest landslides in world history have occurred in Asia, including the estimated 100,000 people that died in a 1920 slide in China and a 1949 event that killed from 12,000 to 20,000 in what is now Tajikistan.

Contributing: Doyle Rice, in McLean, Va.; Associated Press