Skip to main content

Hundreds feared dead or trapped in Afghanistan landslides, governor says

By Qadir Sediqi, CNN
updated 3:51 PM EDT, Fri May 2, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Local governor fears 2,700 dead; a U.N. official says 350 killed, but toll may rise
  • NEW: There was a wedding ceremony happening at the time of landslide, governor says
  • A landslide struck a remote, mountainous area in northeast Afghanistan around noon
  • Hundreds from a nearby village came to help, then another landslide hit

(CNN) -- Hundreds of people are feared dead following deep, devastating landslides Friday in a remote, mountainous part of far northeastern Afghanistan, a provincial governor said.

A landslide crashed down around noon in an area with some 300 homes in the district of Argo in Badakhshan province, the area's governor, Shah Waliullah Adeeb, said. Citing reports from tribal elders and district council members he added that a wedding ceremony was taking place in that area at the time.

Close to 600 people from a nearby village then came to help dig people out when a new landslide struck, Adeeb said.

The provincial governor said there are 2,700 dead, an estimate based on the premise that some houses were occupied, the number of wedding attendees and those who came to help only to get buried themselves.

Yet Ari Gaitanis, a spokesman for the United Nation's Afghanistan mission, reported later Friday a smaller figure of 350 deaths. At the same time, Gaitanis acknowledged the toll could rise Saturday with search efforts underway.

The affected area isn't densely populated, according to the U.N. spokesman, who estimated about 700 families live in the village. Gaitanis said that 120 houses were destroyed.

The out-of-the-way location -- far from a major city, bordered by Tajikistan to the north and Pakistan to the south -- as well as the rocky terrain and abundant mountains makes it difficult to reach, said the U.N. official.

That said, search-and-rescue teams were able to reach the area later Friday.

But the rescue efforts are difficult with rubble 25 to 30 meters (80 to 100 feet) deep covering the ground, according to Adeeb, the governor. He noted worries that another 700 houses are in danger if there's another landslide.

The United States is "ready to help our Afghan partners as they respond to this disaster," U.S. President Obama said Friday outside the White House.

"I want to say on behalf of the American people that our thoughts are with the people of Afghanistan, who have experienced an awful tragedy," Obama said during a wide-ranging news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Badakhshan, is a sparsely populated region comprising a majority Tajik population and an Uzbek and Kyrgyz minority. It was the only province that was not controlled by the Taliban when it ruled Afghanistan.

CNN's Greg Botelho, Jason Hanna and Aliza Kassim contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:21 AM EST, Thu November 27, 2014
The first human trial of an experimental Ebola vaccine has produced promising results, U.S. scientists said.
updated 9:15 AM EST, Thu November 27, 2014
Darren Wilson, the police officer who fatally shot unarmed black teen in August abandoned home after address made public.
updated 5:36 PM EST, Tue November 25, 2014
HBO -- backing a documentary based on "Going Clear," a book about Scientology and Hollywood -- isn't taking any chances with legal side.
updated 2:35 PM EST, Wed November 26, 2014
Grandmaster Nguyen Van Chieu has devoted his adult life to spreading the word about Vietnames martial art, Vovinam.
updated 1:47 PM EST, Fri November 28, 2014
England cricketer Nick Compton shares insight into "drive and courage" it takes to face fears as top batsman.
updated 7:59 PM EST, Wed November 26, 2014
Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson says he was just doing his "job right" when he shot and killed black teenager Michael Brown.
updated 8:18 PM EST, Sun November 23, 2014
The interior of the Formosa Boulevard Mass Rapid Transit Station in Kaohsiung, in southern Taiwan.
Stunning stations where your first priority won't be finding the nearest exit.
updated 6:18 PM EST, Tue November 25, 2014
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says women's "nature is different," sparking fury.
updated 5:43 AM EST, Mon November 24, 2014
A 30-year-old woman has been charged with attempting to kill a baby police say spent five days down a drain before being discovered by cyclists.
updated 8:21 PM EST, Thu November 20, 2014
If it wasn't for a comic's skit, Bill Cosby would still be America's favorite father, says expert.
updated 7:51 PM EST, Sun November 23, 2014
Where do hip young things hang out in Taiwan?
updated 10:50 AM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
Obama orders the most sweeping overhaul of U.S. immigration in decades, prioritizing the deportation of "felons, not families."
updated 4:06 PM EST, Tue November 18, 2014
Fighters loyal to ISIS are now in control of Derna, a city on Libya's Mediterranean coast.
updated 6:19 PM EST, Fri November 21, 2014
China and likely other countries have the capacity to shut down the U.S. power grid, says the NSA.
updated 2:45 PM EST, Wed November 19, 2014
The founder of a U.S. nonprofit that works with returning soldiers is named CNN's Hero of the Year.
updated 12:54 PM EST, Fri November 28, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT