Flash floods wash away houses in Afghanistan, leave 35 dead - GulfToday

Flash floods wash away houses in Afghanistan, leave 35 dead

KABUL-FLOOD

A woman stands next to her house destroyed by floods in Enjil, Herat province, on Friday. Reuters

KABUL: Flash floods caused by heavy rains have killed at least 35 people in Afghanistan, washing away houses and cutting off access to remote villages across parts of the country, officials said on Saturday.

Heavy flooding that started early on Friday killed at least 12 people in the northern province of Faryab and 10 people in the western province of Herat, said Hashmat Bahaduri, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA).

Eight people were killed in Badghis province in the west and five in Balkh province in the north, Bahaduri said, adding that more than 3,000 houses had been destroyed.

In Herat, 10 districts and some parts of Herat city were impacted, said Jailani Farhad, spokesman for the province’s governor.

“Hundreds of houses have been destroyed and thousands displaced,” he said.

Mir Gulabuddin Miri, director of the Afghan Red Crescent in Herat, said access to some areas had been cut off, preventing teams from reaching affected people.

“The destruction is huge. Over 12 areas in the province have been badly hit, people have lost their houses. We’ve only been able to provide them with some food and blankets,” he said.

Aid workers in the northern provinces of Faryab and Balkh have also been struggling to deliver humanitarian assistance to affected families.

“We have dispatched our food and non-food assistance for the affected families, but the scale of the disaster is massive. We need more humanitarian assistance,” an ANDMA spokesman in northern Afghanistan said.

Rescue and aid delivery efforts after disasters such as avalanches and flash floods - which often hit as snow melts in the spring - are frequently hampered by a lack of equipment in Afghanistan.

Poor infrastructure also makes it difficult for aid workers to reach isolated areas.

Earlier this month, at least 20 people were killed by flash floods caused by heavy rains that swept away thousands of homes and vehicles in southern Kandahar province.

Separately, nine Afghan policemen were killed when Taliban fighters stormed their checkpoints and launched a follow-up ambush in the eastern Afghanistan city of Ghazni, officials said on Saturday. The assault began early on Friday when the Taliban attacked two adjacent checkpoints, Ghazni police spokesman Ahmad Khan Seerat said.

The Taliban then ambushed a group of police rushing to the scene, killing the local police head, Seerat added. In all, nine policemen were killed and six were wounded, he said.

Arif Noori, spokesman for the Ghazni governor, confirmed the toll.

In August, Taliban fighters briefly held Ghazni, a city of about 300,000 people some 150 kilometres southwest of Kabul, before they were pushed out by US air strikes and Afghan forces.

Noori added that in a separate part of Ghazni province on Friday, a mortar round hit a school, killing four students and wounding 15 students and teachers.

“The Taliban and security forces were fighting nearby when the incident happened. We have sent a delegation to investigate the incident,” Noori said.

Friday’s attacks highlight the ongoing fragility of Afghanistan’s security and the risks faced by local forces stationed at vulnerable checkpoints.

Meanwhile, Academy Award-winning actor and refugee activist Angelina Jolie pushed for the inclusion of women in peace talks to end the conflict in Afghanistan during an address to ministers and diplomats at the United Nations.

Peace talks between US and Taliban officials began late last year. However, some women fear the freedoms eked out since US-backed Afghan forces overthrew the Taliban in 2001 could slide backwards, and complain their voices are being sidelined.

“In Afghanistan thousands of women have recently come together in public risking their lives to ask that their rights and the rights of their children be guaranteed in peace negotiations that so far they have been allow no part of,” Jolie told a ministerial meeting on UN peacekeeping.

“The international community’s silent response is alarming to say the least,” said Jolie, a special envoy for the UN refugee agency UNHCR, which she began working with 18 years ago. “There can be no peace or stability in Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world that involves trading away the rights of women.”

Agence France-Presse/Reuters