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Flash floods kill 72 people in one day in northern Afghanistan


Baghlan province, Afghanistan
Baghlan province, Afghanistan

Taliban officials have reported that heavy seasonal rains caused flash floods in Afghanistan’s northern Baghlan province, killing at least 72 people on Friday.

Hedayatullah Hamdard, the head of the provincial natural disaster management department, told VOA by phone that the casualties could rise as many people are missing.

He said residents across several Baghlan districts suffered losses after flooding caught them off guard and damaged homes and properties.

Rescue teams, assisted by Taliban security forces, were searching for any possible victims under the mud and rubble. Social media footage showed muddy water swamping roads and villages.

The Taliban government released a formal statement Friday, acknowledging that severe floods also had affected several other provinces in the north and west. “It is with heavy hearts that we mourn the loss of dozens of lives, injuries sustained, the destruction of homes, and the huge financial losses endured by many,” it said.

Poverty-stricken Afghanistan also experienced heavy rains and flash floods across 32 of its 34 provinces in mid-April, resulting in the deaths of more than 100 people.

That flooding destroyed nearly 1,000 homes and about 60,000 acres of agricultural land, alongside critical infrastructure, such as roads, bridges and electricity supplies, which could hinder the delivery of humanitarian assistance, according to international aid groups.

An estimated 80% of the more than 40 million people in Afghanistan depend on agriculture to survive. The war-ravaged South Asian nation is ranked sixth among the countries vulnerable to climate change.

“Three years of successive drought and the harshest winter in 15 years have exacerbated Afghanistan’s hunger crisis at a time when international support is falling,” the U.S.-based International Rescue Committee, or IRC, said in its latest assessment, published last week.

The report said that an estimated 15.3 million Afghans, or 35% of the population, continue to suffer from crisis or worse levels of food insecurity. “Nearly half of the population lives in poverty and will continue to experience economic hardship,” IRC said.

Afghanistan’s economy crashed after the Taliban militarily seized power in 2021 as the then-internationally supported government collapsed, and U.S.-led international forces withdrew after 20 years of involvement in the Afghan war.

The Taliban takeover led to the termination of foreign development funding for Afghanistan, and its banking system largely remains isolated over terrorism-related concerns as well as sanctions on Taliban leaders.