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
Hundreds of people are feared dead following deep, devastating landslides Friday in a remote, mountainous part of far northeastern Afghanistan, a provincial governor said.
The landslide crashed down around noon Friday. The governor said a wedding ceremony was taking place 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 area is far from a major city and is bordered by Tajikistan to the north and Pakistan to the south. Rocky terrain and mountains make it difficult to reach.
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 Barack Obama said Friday.
“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 comprises a majority Tajik population and an Uzbek and Kyrgyz minority. It was the only province not controlled by the Taliban when it ruled Afghanistan.
CNN’s Greg Botelho, Jason Hanna and Aliza Kassim contributed to this report.