Aid groups today rushed to help survivors of a landslide in northern Afghanistan that entombed a village, killing hundreds of people and leaving 700 families homeless in the mountains.
Much of Aab Bareek village in Badakhshan province was swallowed yesterday by a fast-moving tide of mud and rock that swept down the hillside and left almost no trace of 300 homes.
Government officials said the current death toll was at least 300 and warned it could rise by hundreds more, after initial reports suggested that as many as 2,500 people may have died.
Large crowds gathered at the remote disaster site, where rescue efforts were abandoned due to the volume of deep mud covering houses.
Only a few bodies have been pulled from the debris.
"Around 1,000 families are thought to have been affected with some 300 houses totally destroyed," the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a statement.
"Assessments to determine priorities on immediate child protection and water, sanitation, and hygiene needs for (displaced) families are continuing."
It added that 700 families were displaced, with many fleeing their homes in fear the unstable hillside could unleash more deadly landslides.
Tents, emergency food supplies, health services and support for children who lost parents were being organised after many survivors spent another night in the open.
Wailing near her father's destroyed house, Begum Nisa, a 40-year-old mother of three, described the moment when the wall of mud smashed through the village.
"I was eating lunch by the window of my house, then suddenly I heard a huge roar," she said.
"I shouted to my family to save themselves, but it was too late. I have lost my dear father and mother. I also lost my uncle and five members of his family." Local people and emergency workers had used shovels to try in vain to dig out anyone trapped alive. Relief work has now turned to caring for survivors.