KABUL: More than 100 people have been killed and thousands left homeless by flash floods in north and west Afghanistan, officials said on Friday, prompting desperate pleas for help from the impoverished provincial authorities.
Thousands of homes have been engulfed by floodwaters in four provinces after three days of heavy rain in what is traditionally a wet period at the start of spring.
In the northern province of Jawzjan, police chief Faqer Mohammad Jawzjani said 55 bodies had been recovered, and that the number of dead would increase over the coming days.
“Providing aid or help from the ground is impossible,” he said.
“We have carried 1,500 people to safe areas of neighbouring districts by helicopter. We need emergency assistance from the central government and aid agencies.”
The governor of neighbouring Faryab province said 33 people had died there and another 80 were missing.
“Ten thousand families have been affected and more than 2,000 houses have been destroyed,” Mohammadullah Batazhn said.
Another 13 people were killed in the provinces of Badghis and Sar-i-Pul, local officials said.
The floodwaters swept through villages and fields, engulfing thousands of homes and leaving many people seeking safety on the roofs of their mud-brick houses.
Local officials reported shortages of drinking water, food and medicine, as the central government’s disaster management agency said it was assessing emergency needs. The floodwaters destroyed farmland and also killed livestock across the remote region.
Flooding often occurs during the spring rainy season in northern Afghanistan, with flimsy mud houses offering little protection against rising water levels.
Afghanistan is set to release preliminary presidential election results on Friday, and Ashraf Ghani, one of the leading contenders, was quick to call for help for the flood victims.
“We extend our deepest sympathies to the people affected and demand urgent action by the government and relief organisations to help the affected people,” he said in a statement.
Two weeks ago, a landslide triggered by heavy rains and a small earthquake swept through two villages in the northern province of Takhar, killing four people and destroying around 100 houses.
In the last major flooding in Afghanistan, 40 people died in August in flash floods in eastern and southeastern provinces and some districts of the capital Kabul.