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At least 80 killed as flash floods destroy village in Afghanistan

  • Christina Goldbaum, Fahim Abed and Zabihullah Ghazi, The New York Times
    Published: 2021-07-30 16:24:40 BdST

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Map of Afghanistan. Screenshot taken from Google Maps.

At least 80 people were killed with 100 more missing after a flash flood tore through a village in a Taliban-controlled area of eastern Afghanistan late Wednesday, Afghan officials said.

The deluge swept away most of the village in the Nuristan province, destroying around 200 homes, and caught most residents off guard because they were sleeping. By Thursday night, villagers had recovered around 80 bodies; as the search continues, local officials expect the death toll to surpass 200.

“It is wiped out; nothing remains after floods,” said Abdul Naser, a resident of the district who visited the village Thursday. “No aid has arrived yet, and there are no measures for caskets, coffins and funerals.”

The flash flood is the latest blow for Afghanistan, where fighting between government forces and the Taliban has displaced hundreds of thousands of people in recent months and pushed the country to the brink of a humanitarian crisis, aid agencies say. Since international troops began withdrawing in May, the Taliban have made a swift military advance, gaining control of more than half of the country’s 400-odd districts.

But as the militant group presses on in its offensive, raising the possibility of a complete Taliban takeover, many have questioned whether they could effectively govern the war-stricken and foreign aid-dependent country if they seize power. The flood, in Kamdesh district, offered an early test for the Taliban’s ability to provide relief services — a sign of effective governance — in the areas they control.

On Thursday afternoon, local officials called on the Taliban to grant aid groups access to the district to provide emergency services. But by the afternoon, search and rescue teams had still not been able to reach the remote village largely because the Taliban control the roads into the district, according to a statement from the Ministry for Disaster Management. Local disaster management committees in nearby Kunar and Laghman provinces were working on getting their rescue teams to the area.

“The area is under Taliban control. If the Taliban allow us, we will take aid to the area,” said Hafiz Abdul Qayum, the governor of Nuristan province.

In a statement Thursday evening, a Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, said that the group welcomed aid organizations’ assistance.

The casualty toll from the deluge in a Taliban-controlled district in Nuristan province was expected to rise as the search for victims continues.

© 2021 The New York Times Company