As many as 2,500 are buried alive in Afghan village landslide
The spring rainy season had already brought death and destruction to northern Afghanistan. For days, flash floods had ripped through the high mountain valleys of the north.
On Friday, the waterlogged mountainside above the remote village of Ab Barak could take no more, sending a torrent of mud crashing through hundreds of homes, burying more than 2,000 people.
Rescue teams who arrived yesterday said they faced impossible conditions, digging through as much as 90ft of mud, as the United Nations said 350 bodies had been recovered. Officials said as many as 2,500 people had died.
One of the few people to escape the landslide spoke of the moment mud engulfed his village.
Rahim, who like many Afghans uses only a single name, was at his home in Ab Barak on Friday. He was spending his day off alone while his wife and children visited his in-laws across the village. Then he heard what sounded like the end of the world.
It started with a noise like a howling wind, then the crash of falling trees before an echo of screams rang around the village, he said.
"I ran out and saw an ocean of dirt coming down on the village," he said. "There was just dust on top of it, all moving so very fast."
He was lucky. His house, made of little more than mud bricks, was at the far edge of the mountain, so he had time to run.
Rahim told his story after reaching the safety of Fayzabad, the provincial capital of Badakhshan in the far north-east of Afghanistan.
He had brought his injured son to hospital.
With little hope of recovering anyone alive from beneath the mud, they were among the fortunate few.
"Five families that were my relatives are gone. There is no sign left from them," said Rahim, breaking into tears.
Even before the landslides, the spring rains had killed more than 150 people across northern Afghanistan.
The UN mission in the country said the main needs were water, medical support, food and emergency shelter.