Saturday, 3 May 2014

Over 2500 feared to have died following landslides in Badakhshan Province, northeast Afghanistan.

It is feared that over 2500 people may have died following two landslides in Badakhshan Province in northeast Afghanistan on the morning of Friday 2 May 2014. The initial landslide hit the village of Abi Barak, burying around 300 homes a in a blanket of mud and soil which in places reached 10 m thick, entombing many people in their own homes, including one house where a wedding party was going on. Villagers from a neighbouring community reached the site and began to excavate the homes, when they were struck by a second landslide killing many more. Around 500 people have been evacuated from the immediate area and provided with food and shelter by aid agencies, and army personnel and people from other local communities are continuing to try to excavate bodies, but the hillside is still feared to be unstable, and the government are said to be considering abandoning further attempts and designating the site of the village a mass grave. Sunday 4 May has been designated a day of national mourning in Afghanistan.

Rescuers trying to excavate a building following the 2 May 2014 Abi Barak landslide. Sayed Ibrahim/Associated Press.

The incident happened following several days of heavy rain that had swept the region. Landslides are a common problem after severe weather events, as excess pore water pressure can overcome cohesion in soil and sediments, allowing them to flow like liquids. Approximately 90% of all landslides are caused by heavy rainfall. Badakhstan is thought to be particularly prone to such events, both because it is extremely mountainous, and because it is one of the poorest and least developed in Afghanistan, with little infrastructure to provide protection against geohazards or provide support when they occur.

Part of the debris covering much of the village of Abi Barak. Reuters.

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