FULOOL (Afghanistan), May 14 — Survivors of flash floods in Afghanistan were still searching for the missing on Monday, days after torrents of water ripped through villages, killing hundreds.

Heavy rains sparked flash flooding in multiple Afghan provinces on Friday, killing more than 300 people in Baghlan alone, UN agencies and Taliban officials said.

Rescue and aid workers have been struggling to reach some of the worst-affected areas with the World Health Organization echoing Taliban government and non-profit warnings that the death toll could rise significantly.

Samiullah Omari had found the bodies of seven of his relatives, but his uncle and uncle’s grandson were still missing.


“We have been searching but we haven’t found them,” the 24-year-old day labourer told AFP in his village of Fulool.

For kilometres around, mud covers everything, with cars, uprooted trees and limbs of livestock jutting out from the thick brown sludge where homes once stood.

Neither Omari nor his 70-year-old father have ever seen “such havoc-wreaking floods”, he said.


The WHO has warned of rising cases of water-borne diseases in flood-affected regions.

In a country with a health system already on its knees, some health facilities were rendered non-operational by the flooding, which damaged or destroyed thousands of homes and swamped agricultural land.

“The full extent of the damage is not yet known, and the country lacks the necessary resources to manage a disaster of this magnitude,” the WHO said in a situation report on Sunday.

‘Nothing left’

The United Nations agency said it had delivered seven metric tonnes of medical aid to northern Afghanistan and deployed mobile health teams.

Omari and dozens of other villagers took refuge in a house on higher ground.

“God protected us along with 60-70 people and we survived it,” he said, but his house and all his belongings were washed away.

All that was left were the clothes on his back.

“We hope shelter will be provided for us,” Omari said, adding that women and children had been “scattered” to other areas to stay with relatives.

All that Bibi Shirin, 35, found from her family’s home and food shop was a carpet caught in a tree.

“There was nothing left,” she said, tears in her eyes.

Amanullah, who like many Afghans goes by one name, said families had been sleeping in the open air since the destruction.

“We have an urgent need for tents,” the patriarch of a family of 25 people told AFP.

“Where should we go, where should we live, there are no tents, no food... we don’t have any life left, or the means to start over,” said the 60-year-old, who watched the waters engulf his home and livestock, a precious commodity in a country where 80 per cent of the more than 40 million people depend on agriculture to survive.

Ghulam Rasool Qani, a 45-year-old tribal elder in Fulool, said 150 dead had already been found in his and neighbouring villages.

“We still can’t say the exact number of dead and injured from this area because at every moment, our list of victims rises.”

‘Start over’

Getting aid to the area has been a challenge for rescuers.

Qani said he saw military helicopters the night of the flood, but they were forced to turn back due to poor weather. Helicopters, medical teams and some NGOs later reached the area, braving washed-out roads for hours to reach the isolated village.

Tents had been set up near the village to provide medical aid, as government officials surveyed the damage.

The Taliban public health ministry said on Monday that where roads had been blocked, helicopters had evacuated injured people to neighbouring provinces.

“Our teams are on the ground,” said Masood Ahmadi, head of the Baghlan health department, adding some non-governmental organisations were also at the scene but lamenting that more had so far “only called and promised to help”.

Mohibullah Mohaqiq, 66, held onto hope, even as tears streamed down his face over the loss of all he’d built in Fulool.

“I will rebuild these ruins and make this area green again,” he said.

“I trust in this, and I trust that my compatriots will stand with me shoulder by shoulder.” — AFP