Flash floods kill more than 300 in northern Afghanistan

Thousands of houses destroyed or damaged in Baghlan province

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Flash floods caused by heavy rain in the north of Afghanistan have killed more than 300 people, the UN and Taliban authorities said.

Thousands of houses were destroyed or damaged in Baghlan province when heavy rains on Friday sparked major flooding, the UN's International Organisation for Migration said.

The Taliban-run ministry for refugees said on Sunday that the death toll was 315, with more than 1,600 people injured, citing figures from its provincial office in Baghlan.

Most of the victims, mainly women and children, were killed when flash flooding ripped through five districts of Baghlan province in the country's north, a local official said.

In the Baghlani Jadid district alone, up to 1,500 homes were damaged or destroyed and “more than 100 people died”, an official with the UN's International Organisation for Migration said on Saturday, citing figures from the national disaster management authority.

The floods also caused losses to homes and property in several other districts. People became stuck after the bad weather and needed urgent help, government spokesman Abdul Mateen Qaniee said earlier.

In neighbouring Takhar province, state-owned media outlets reported the floods killed at least 20 people. The flash floods also hit the capital, Kabul.

Zabihullah Mujahid, chief spokesman for the Taliban government, on Saturday named Baghlan, Badakhshan, Ghor and Herat as the worst-hit provinces, adding that “extensive devastation” has resulted in significant financial losses.

Salma Ben Aissa, Afghanistan director for the International Rescue Committee, said: “Communities have lost entire families, while livelihoods have been decimated as a result.

“This should sound an alarm bell for world leaders and international donors: we call upon them to not forget Afghanistan during these turbulent global times.”

Survivors in Baghlan received fortified biscuits from World Food Programme workers.

“On current information, in Baghlan province there are 311 fatalities, 2,011 houses destroyed and 2,800 houses damaged,” WFP communications officer Rana Deraz said on Saturday.

Hedayatullah Hamdard, the head of the provincial natural disaster management department, said residents were unprepared for the sudden rush of water.

Emergency personnel were “searching for any possible victims under the mud and rubble, with the help of security forces from the national army and police”, he added.

Ten Afghan provinces have experienced flash flooding and other disasters since mid-April, with no region entirely spared, according to authorities.

Death toll rises as flash floods hit Afghanistan

Death toll rises as flash floods hit Afghanistan

Farmland has been swamped in a country where 80 per cent of the more than 40 million people depend on agriculture to survive.

Afghanistan, which has a relatively dry winter, making it more difficult for the soil to absorb rainfall, is vulnerable to climate change.

It is especially vulnerable to deluges because of mountainous terrain, thin vegetation cover in many areas and insufficient infrastructure. Many communities in remote areas are particularly at risk.

The ability to respond to disasters is also low in the country, after most international funding ended after the Taliban regained power in 2021.

The nation is one of the world’s poorest and, according to scientists, one of the worst prepared to face the consequences of global warming.

Afghanistan, which is responsible for only 0.06 per cent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, ranks sixth on the list of countries most at risk from climate change, experts say.

Updated: May 12, 2024, 9:35 AM