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A landslide killed more than 2,100 people in northeast Afghanistan

Villagers were praying in two mosques when they were entombed by a tide of debris storming down the mountain.

Afghanistan landslideEnlarge
Afghan villagers gather at the site of a landslide in the Argo district of Badakhshan province on May 3, 2014. (Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images)

KABUL, Afghanistan — There was little sign Saturday morning of the hundreds of homes that had once stood in Aab Bareek, a remote village in the mountains of northeast Afghanistan.

Midday yesterday, while most villagers were at Friday prayers in one of two mosques, a landslide stormed down the mountain, entombing those knelt in prayer.

Many nearby rushed to the scene to assist those in need. A second landslide claimed them.

Local officials say all in all 2,100 people have been confirmed dead. The UN is more cautious, and has confirmed 350 dead with thousands missing.

By any account the scale of tragedy is enormous.

"More than 2,100 people from 300 families are all dead," Naweed Forotan, a spokesman for the Badakhshan provincial governor, told Reuters.

On Saturday, locals and emergency workers arrived at the scene to find thousands homeless.

"There is a very thick layer of mud. It is very difficult for people to take dead bodies out," Sayed Abdullah Homayun Dehqan, provincial director of the Afghan National Disaster Management Authority, told AFP from the scene.

"There is fear of another landslide. Our assessment team have seen a crack in a nearby hill.

"They have only been able to find the body of a woman and a man.

"We have started distributing food ... but we don't have enough tents for all the 700 families who spent the night outside. There are around 2,000 people — women, children, elders — without homes."

The United Nations said the focus was now on the more than 4,000 displaced by Friday's disaster.

"All the relevant UN agencies — together with the Afghan Red Crescent Society and NGO partners — are already on the ground," the UN mission in Afghanistan said.

"The immediate focus is on approximately 700 families displaced either directly as a result of this slide or as a precautionary measure from villages assessed to be at further risk.

"Key needs for them are water, medical support, counselling support, food and emergency shelter."

There is a risk of further landslides in the area, officials say.

The site is expected to be designated a mass grave and memorial services have been planned for later Saturday.

President Hamid Karzai expressed his condolences to those affected and said immediate action was being taken to find survivors.

But large-scale rescue work could be impossible as roads to the area cannot take heavy machinery.

Badakhshan is a remote, mountainous province bordering Tajikistan, China and Pakistan.

The landslides follow recent severe flooding in other parts of northern Afghanistan, which killed 150 people and affected 67,000 in Jowzjan, Faryab and Sar-e-Pul provinces.

Flooding and landslides often occur during the spring rainy season in northern Afghanistan, with flimsy mud houses offering little protection against rising water levels and torrents of mud.

Agence France-Presse and Thomson Reuters contributed to this report.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/afghanistan/140503/afghanistan-landslide-kills-2100