Landslide kills 25 in Afghanistan

Published February 20, 2024

KABUL: A landslide cau­sed by heavy snowfall has killed 25 people and injured eight others in the eastern Afghan province of Nuristan, a disaster management ministry spok­e­sman said on Monday.

Earth, snow and rubble swept through the village of Nakre in the Tatin valley of Nuristan overnight on Sunday.

“As a result of the landslide, some 25 people have been killed and eight injured,” spokesman Jan­an Sayeq said in a video clip shared with media.

The official added that the death toll could rise.

Nuristan province, whi­ch borders Pakistan, is mostly covered by mountainous forests and hugs the southern end of the Hindu Kush mountain range.

Provincial officials said snow has also hampered rescue efforts.

“Due to clouds and rain, the helicopter cannot land in Nuristan,” said Mohammad Nabi Adel, the head of public works in the province.—AFP

Adel said snow had blocked one of the main roads into the province, making “the rescue operation difficult”.

Around 20 houses were destroyed or heavily damaged, according to the provincial head of information and culture, Jamiullah Hashimi.

Snow continued to fall as rescuers tried to dig people out of the rubble, he said, noting that the efforts were hampered not only by weather but lack of equipment in the remote area. “Modern equipment, tools, and facilities are not available for the rescue operation,” he explained.

Rescuers relied on shovels, axes and other hand tools to dig through the earth and rubble to retrieve the dead.

Large boulders also fell in the landslide and had to be blasted with explosives to make way for the rescuers.

Afghanistan is one of the world’s poorest countries, racked by decades of war, prone to natural disasters and vulnerable to extreme weather events linked to climate change.

Soil erosion risks

Mountainous areas of Afghanistan have long been prey to landslides and floods, but risks have increased in recent years due to deforestation and drought, worsened by climate change, experts say.

“When vegetation cover or forests are cut down, or if green coverage doesn’t exist in the area, soil erosion occurs,” said Rohullah Amin, head of climate change for the National Environmental Protection Agency.

“With soil erosion, when it rains or snows and the vegetation cover...doesn’t exist anymore it causes such landslides.”

The arrival of snow this season was delayed across much of Afghanistan.

Officials said there has been less snowfall in Nuristan compared to previous years, though Amin said the province was not less hard-hit by drought than other parts of the country.

Published in Dawn, February 20th, 2024

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