Afghan authorities seek new homes for landslide refugees

Afghan officials on Monday said they were seeking to build new homes for hundreds of families displaced by a landslide that entombed a village, killing at least 300 people.

Kabul: Afghan officials on Monday said they were seeking to build new homes for hundreds of families displaced by a landslide that entombed a village, killing at least 300 people.

Also Monday, presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani visited the scene in the north-eastern Badakhshan province, a mountainous and relatively peaceful region bordering Tajikstan, China and Pakistan.

Rival and frontrunner Abdullah Abdullah was due later Monday night, officials said.

Following heavy rain on Friday, a torrent of mud and rocks swept down a deep valley, levelling the village of Aab Bareek. 

The disaster has left at least 300 dead, according to local authorities, who warned that the toll could rise rise by hundreds more. Initial reports suggested that as many as 2,500 people may have died.

The landslide left around 700 people homeless, with some finding shelter in neighbouring villages and others sleeping in tents provided by humanitarian organisations.

Abdullah Homayun Dehqan, head of the provincial disaster management authority, said: "A commission has been established to look for lands to build houses for the affected families. 

"We are in touch with the locals in adjacent villages, the government is even ready to buy lands for them so that they can move in."

Ghani, the former finance minister, visited the area Monday. He called on Afghan officials to take "immediate action" to boost the distribution of aid, and promised relay the demands of the affected to local and international organisations and governments.

Afghans also used social networks to rally relief, with the "Badakhshan Needs You" Facebook page and a Twitter account aimed at fundraising and providing information on victims.

The landslide, which crushed the mud huts of Aab Bareek, "underscores the need for development policies and projects that are based on thorough research and assessments" in a country where such houses are commonplace, said Afghan analyst Bilal Askaryar.
"You can`t prevent natural disasters, but you can conduct thorough research to understand the threat and likelihood of a disaster occurring.
"Once you have that information, you can use it to educate the people at risk, raise awareness about early warning signs, make sure development projects in the area take the risk into consideration, and have a response plan established in advance," he added.

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