Chaotic scenes as Afghan landslide victims seek aid

AAB BAREEK Afghanistan Mon May 5, 2014 7:06pm IST

Afghan villagers excavate for dead bodies at the site of a landslide that occured on Friday at the Argo district in Badakhshan province May 5, 2014. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

Afghan villagers excavate for dead bodies at the site of a landslide that occured on Friday at the Argo district in Badakhshan province May 5, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Mohammad Ismail

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AAB BAREEK Afghanistan (Reuters) - Grief-stricken and desititute Afghan villagers vented anger with their government as they scrambled for emergency aid, three days after deadly landslides engulfed their homes.

Some 300 homes in Aab Bareek, a village in the Argo district of Badakhshan, a remote and mountainous northeastern province, were buried under up to 50 metres of earth and debris.

The number of dead may never be known though U.N. and Afghan officials have estimated fatalities at anywhere between 500 and 2,700 people.

U.N. agencies and non governmental organizations distributed supplies, but displaced villagers complained others from nearby areas had taken supplies meant for them.

"There is no proper plan to give aid to the needy," Rahmatullah, a villager who lost five family members, told Reuters on Monday.

"People from other villages came here and receive help but the actual needy people are ignored by the officials," Rahmatullah said, his creased face covered with dust as he peered out of the tent he and his parents had been given.

Backed by their armed militia, strongmen from the dominant ethnic Uzbek community in the area took aid delivery into their own hands, sending truckloads of food, water and tents to the stricken village.

In chaotic scenes, villagers scuffled in a bid to get the rations, prompting police to fire warning shots in the air. The aid was then sent to a dispensing centre at the provincial capital Faizabad, two hours drive away.

PRECARIOUS

Some 4,000 people been displaced by Friday's landslide, and survivors have been warned against returning home because of the danger of more slides.

"We must have a plan to evacuate these people to better place, or another disaster of disease will strike," said Sham ul Haq, a doctor working among survivors.

Survivors have been given shelter in some hundred tents erected on a hilltop near the buried homes, Afghan lawmakers who visited the site on Monday said they should be moved immediately.

"Seven hundred families are at great risk and the government has done nothing so far to move them from high ground," said Abdul Rauf Enhaam, an MP visiting the site.

"We have suggested the government move the families to empty ground near the airport but we haven't heard anything yet. Without international assistance, the government won't do anything and these people will die," he added.

The Afghan government on Sunday called the landslide site a a mass grave, but hundreds were still digging at the site on Monday hoping of finding the bodies of their loves ones.

"Instead of giving us wheat, the government should have brought in equipment to dig out the dead bodies," said Habibullah, 22, who lost his entire family to the landslide.

(Writing Hamid Shalizi; Editing by Jeremy Laurence and Simon Cameron-Moore)

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