Flash floods leave trail of death in dry Afghanistan

Flash floods caused by heavy rains have killed nearly 50 people in western Afghanistan, with 60 more missing, the Afghan Health Ministry said on Friday.

Forty-seven bodies had been recovered after floods hit the western province of Badghis on Thursday, ministry official Ahmad Shah Shokohmand said, citing information provided by provincial health authorities.

The bodies were being kept in a mosque in Balamurghab, a town about 30km from the border with Turkmenistan, Shokohmand said.

The governor of Badghis, Mohammad Nasim Tokhi, had said earlier that at least 13 people, including children, had drowned while nearly 100 more were missing.

The floods washed away villages along the Murghab River, he said, warning that thousands of people were still in danger. “It was a huge flood. We have 13 bodies recovered and dozens, nearly 100, are missing,” he said, citing information about the missing from their families.

The Nato-led International Security Assistance Force said it was aware of the “serious situation” and was working with the government to send disaster relief, including eight tonnes of medical supplies, to the area.

Afghanistan, especially the west and south, has been in the grip of drought but heavy rains started falling in several areas in the past week.
Badghis has been especially hard hit by a lack of rain with reports that hundreds of families had left their land.

The British-based charity Christian Aid said in September that it had found that most water sources in Badghis and adjoining Herat and Ghor provinces had dried up.

In the south of the country, meanwhile, the bodies of two Afghans who drowned in the province of Zabul on Thursday were recovered on Friday, provincial police said. “Their vehicle was hit by a flood while passing a flood plain. Two of the four passengers in the vehicle were killed,” a police spokesperson said.

He said the four were with a foreign-based security organisation but this could not be confirmed.

The United Nations World Food Programme renewed calls on Friday for urgent funds to buy food for millions of Afghans facing shortages this winter, some of whom had been affected by drought.

“Our stocks are empty,” a spokesperson for the UN programme, Ebadullah Ebadi, said.

The world body needs $30-million for its winter food delivery to 3,5-million Afghans who rely on its help, he said. Another three million who are not covered by the WFP are also “severely and chronically affected” by food shortages, Ebadi said.

“In addition to this, 1,9[-million people] have been affected by drought,” he said.—Sapa-AFP

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