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Chinese, Iranians to help retrieve corpses

Chinese, Iranians to help retrieve corpses

May 10, 2014 - 15:36

FAIZABAD (Pajhwok): Chinese and Iranian experts have promised to help retrieve corpses buried under a deep layer of mud as a result of the May 2 landslide in northeastern Badakhshan province, a minister said on Saturday.

About 2,500 people were buried under the rubble of 300 homes after the tragedy hit Argo district. But the district chief, the Independent Directorate of Local Governance and a number of other sources put the death toll between 300 and 500.

Rural Rehabilitation and Development Minister Wais Ahmad Barmak told Pajhwok Afghan News China and Iran had gone through similar disasters and experts from these two countries knew how to retrieve corpses.

Many affected families have questioned the government over giving up so quickly the search for victims, leaving locals and volunteers digging on their own. Less than a day after the tragedy, officials halted search and rescue efforts.

The first landslide, triggered by heavy rains, hit the village of Aab Barik and about 600 people from nearby villages rushed to help those trapped under the mud, only to be hit by a second landslide the same day.

On Saturday (May 3), less than 24 hours after the landslides, the government announced ending rescue efforts due to a lack of necessary equipment.

Officials dispatched to the scene performed funeral prayers. The next day, the village was officially declared a mass grave, meaning they believed there were no survivors to be found.

But a Pajhwok reporter, who visited the site, said men and women searching for corpses of their relatives criticised the government for failing to recover the bodies.

The reporter saw a group of women using shovels and picks in search of bodies of their relatives while crying in hopelessness.

A resident of the area, Tash Folad, said his parents and a brother were under the debris and all their efforts to dig them out had failed. He asked the government to help them pull out the corpses.

Local officials said the sea of mud at some parts was more than 100 metres deep and it was very hard to extract bodies.

President Hamid Karzai, who recently toured the site, promised retrieval of corpses and rebuilding homes for those rendered homeless.

Azizullah, one of displaced persons, housed in a tent along with his five other family members, said they were exposed to harsh weather conditions and their children had been infected by various illnesses.

Provincial Public Health Director Dr Noor Mohamad Khawari confirmed the outbreak of respiratory and diarrhea among women and children housed in the makeshift arrangements, saying their situation was worsening with the passage of time.

More than 50 patients from the displaced families are treated daily by his department’s mobile teams of doctors.

Rural Rehabilitation and Development Minister Barmak said a township would be constructed for the displaced families. He added a special team had been appointed by his ministry to survey a proper location for the township.

He added 1,000 of the affected families would benefit from the residential scheme, for which India had promised $1 million.

A large amount of aid has been collected by civil society activists and traders across the country, in addition to aid coming from foreign countries, Barmak said, adding aid distribution started on Friday.