Deadly Afghan floods, earthquake, destroy harvest

KABUL, Afghanistan, July 22, 2004 (ENS): Flash floods and mudslides brought on by heavy rains last week have devastated villages and farmland in Afghanistan's north and central highlands, according to UN and aid agency officials. Thirteen people lost their lives in the disaster and thousands of families are affected.

An earthquake on Sunday in Paktia and Herat provinces have killed two people in Paktia province and affected 150 families in the western region, the Afghan Red Crescent reports.

The quake, about 130 kilometers (50 miles) southeast of Kabul, was measured at a magnitude of 5.1 by the U.S. Geological Survey, National Earthquake Information Center and follows several recent low key tremors felt across the country and the region.

Floods have affected the central provinces of Logar, Ghazni, Paktia and Bamyan. In north, Badakhshan, Samangan and Baghlan are among the hardest hit provinces, while the eastern provinces of Kunar and Nooristan have suffered extensive damage.

The Office of the UN Resident Coordinator and Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Kabul say that 23 villages in the Khamard district of Bamyan province are flooded and a dam formed over the past few days by debris from the slides is blocking the flow of flood waters.

The Office of the Resident UN Coordinator says provincial authorities in Bamyan province have requested assistance for Khamard district. They need equipment and work crews to help dislodge the dam. There is concern that if the dam bursts from the pressure of floodwaters, villages will be destroyed.

The stagnant muddy water behind the dam may become a breeding ground for water-borne diseases, officials fear.

Some help appears to be on the way. US$18,500 from the government of Denmark's Emergency Grant was approved on Wednesday for emergency road clearance work in Khamard and the transport of relief to the flooded villages.

In addition, the French nongovernment organization Solidarites has begun work on clearing the main road in Khamard.

Neither the U.S. troops in Afghanistan nor the U.S. Agency for International Development has yet responded to the crisis.

The Afghan government, UN agencies, NGOs and the UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan are planning further assessment and relief missions to the affected villages in Khamard districts.

In the northeastern province of Badakshan eight people have died in the floods. The Provincial Disaster Management committee is distributing relief supplies.

UN officials say that about 60 percent of the region's harvest has been wiped out and farmland has been damaged by debris and is now covered with water and silt.

The Afghan Red Crescent Society is working in concert with the UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan, which is the coordinating agency for all relief efforts.

With support of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) and in coordination with other relief agencies, the Afghan Red Crescent Society has in the initial stage of the disaster distributed rice, wheat, cooking oil, tea, sugar, pressure cookers, blankets, tents, kitchen sets and plastic sheets.

A two day coordination meeting chaired by the Afghan Ministry of Rehabilitation and Rural Development with major stakeholders was completed on Wednesday, and resulted in a call for humanitarian agencies to assist with the response and rehabilitation effort in the flood-affected areas.

The Afghan Red Crescent Society was recognized as the organization which was the first to effectively respond to the disaster, the IFRC said, saying, "Afghanistan is particularly vulnerable to natural disasters such as earthquake, flood and drought."

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