AFGHANISTAN: Floods and avalanches kill dozens and displace hundreds

Photo: WFP
Destruction and damage left by flooding

KABUL, 20 March 2007 (IRIN) – More than 50 people have been killed and hundreds displaced because of heavy rainfall, avalanches and floods over the past few days in Afghanistan’s southern and south-western provinces, officials say.

In Uruzgan, Helmand, Badghis and Ghor provinces, more than 500 houses were destroyed or damaged by floods.

In the most recent incident, an avalanche in the Murgab area of central Ghor killed 16 people and injured 25, Mohammad Asif, a provincial official, told IRIN on Tuesday.

In another incident on Monday, floods killed more than 30 people in Ghor’s neighbouring province of Uruzgan, where officials have urged the United Nations and international relief organisations to provide humanitarian assistance.

Qayom Qayomi, a spokesman for the governor of Uruzgan, said hundreds of people affected by floods were now stranded in Dehraoud and Charcheno districts.

“For the time being we cannot access the affected areas and provide assistance. Roads are destroyed and we do not have helicopters to deliver aid,” Qayomi said.

In the neighbouring Helmand and Badghis provinces, at least 12 people, including several women and children, died in flash rains and floods.

“People in many parts of Badghis province have lost everything,” said Farooq Ehsan, a member of the provincial development council in Badghis. “They do not have shelter, food, medicine and potable water.”

In the Ingeel district of Herat province in the west, up to 200 houses were damaged by floods, provincial officials confirmed.

A Joint Disaster Preparedness Committee (JDPC) – comprised of several Afghan government departments, UN agencies, coalition forces and international relief organisations – has dispatched rapid assessment teams to the affected areas.

NATO-led International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) has sent helicopters to deliver aid and evacuate locals from the flood-ridden Dehraoud district of Uruzgan province.

“ISAF helicopters have transported people into relatively safe areas. Provincial hospitals and local health clinics in many districts are thronging with injured and ill people,” said Qayomi.

Rikki Maliklali, deputy country director for the World Food Programme in Afghanistan, said the UN agency was ready to deliver food items to the affected communities.

“We have 350,000 metric tonnes of food items at our warehouses in five locations in Afghanistan, which is more than the current level of demand,” said Maliklali.

Supplies of medicine, tents, tarpaulins and blankets have also been prepared by JDPC and plans are underway to distribute them to 400 affected families in Uruzgan.

Officials in Kabul say more humanitarian assistance will be delivered in the coming days through a government and NGO-coordinated emergency plan.

But prompt delivery of humanitarian assistance into the rugged provinces of mountainous Afghanistan could be difficult, warn aid workers. Heavy snow and rains have damaged highways and roads, impeding traffic in many parts of the country.

“For the past three days, the only highway that connects Bamyan province with Kabul through Parwan province has been blocked by oversize rocks slipping from mountains in the rains,” said Sabira Nawabi, a local official in Bamyan.

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