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Nearly 60 killed in Afghanistan floods

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.

india Updated: Nov 18, 2006 18:57 IST
Fridoon Poya (AFP)
Fridoon Poya (AFP)

Nearly 60 people are dead and dozens still missing days after flash floods in western Afghanistan, the health minister said on Saturday as NATO choppers delivered medicines and other aid.

The health ministry had already sent a team of doctors to the remote western province of Badghis and more were on their way, Health Minister Mohammad Amin Fatemi told the agency.

Fifty-six bodies had been recovered after floods hit the province, which borders Turkmenistan, on Thursday, he said.

Most of the bodies were found in the Murghab district and eight in neighbouring Ghormach.

The head of a government-appointed disaster committee, Habibullah Murghabi, said that around 100 people were still missing two days after the floods.

Fatemi said the flood waters had damaged nearly 3,500 houses, many of them built from mud bricks, and killed around 2,300 heads of livestock.

"We have launched a large scale relief operation which includes sending out medic teams, medical supplies, blankets.

We are sending out doctors. Some of the teams are already at the site, some are arriving," he said.

Murghabi said earlier that the floods, caused by heavy rains, had washed away up to six villages along the Murghab River.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) sent choppers to the area to deliver eight tonnes of relief aid, including medical supplies and blankets, with winter beginning to set in.

"It is still not clear how many people are affected," spokesman Major Luke Knittig said.

"It seems more than 1,000 homes have been destroyed and a good number of people have been affected."

The remoteness of the area, near the town of Balamurghab about 30 kilometres from the border with Turkmenistan, meant details of the casualties and damage were hard to pin down.

The Italian-led ISAF team in the western city Herat was also working with local authorities to assess the damage and line up assistance, spokesman Captain Giancarlo Ciaburro said.

"There are reports of 100 people dead but we don't know the numbers because the area is not very reachable," he said.

ISAF teams had said Balamurghab was under four inches of water, he said, warning of health problems later because of the rotting animal carcasses in the water.

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, a province of grassy hills, has been especially hard hit by a lack of rain, with reports that hundreds of families have been forced to leave 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.

United Nations bodies have put out urgent calls for donations to buy food aid for millions of Afghans who face shortages this winter, although agencies say there is no danger of starvation.

Afghanistan is wrecked after nearly 30 years of war, which has also left traditional irrigation methods and the agriculture sector in general in tatters.

Its infrastructure is ruined and the country is reliant on the international community for disaster relief, development and battling a resurgent Taliban, being assisted by other Islamist militant groups.

First Published: Nov 18, 2006 18:25 IST