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UN reports 300 deaths from flash floods in northern Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD — The United Nations and Taliban authorities said Saturday that the death toll from flash floods following heavy seasonal rains in Afghanistan’s northern Baghlan province had risen to a least 300.

The U.N. World Food Program said the flooding destroyed more than 1,000 houses. It said that “this has been one of many floods over the last few weeks due to unusually heavy rainfall.”

A senior Taliban official said in a social media video message that Friday’s calamity had left at least 150 people dead in a single Baghlan district called Nahreen.

Ghulam Rasool Qani said the death toll might rise and noted that military helicopters had arrived in the area to assist in local rescue efforts.

Authorities said that rescue workers are bringing aid to hardest-hit Baghlan districts. The WFP said it was distributing fortified biscuits to the survivors.

Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban government spokesperson, stated on social media platform X that the flooding had caused devastation in several other northern and western provinces, including Badakhshan, Ghor and Herat.

“Regrettably, hundreds of our fellow citizens have succumbed to these calamitous floods, while a substantial number have sustained injuries,” Mujahid wrote. “Moreover, the deluge has wrought extensive devastation upon residential properties, resulting in significant financial losses.”

Mujahid said the government had directed the Ministry of Disaster Management and other relevant authorities “to mobilize all available resources expeditiously” to rescue victims and bring them to safer areas, evacuate bodies, and provide timely medical treatment to those injured.

“We also urge our fellow citizens to assist the affected victims of this natural disaster to the best of their abilities and collaborate with the flood-stricken individuals,” Mujahid 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.

According to international aid groups, the flooding destroyed nearly 1,000 homes and about 24,000 hectares (59,800 acres) of agricultural land, along with critical infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, and electricity supplies, which could hinder the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

Richard Bennett, the U.N. special rapporteur on the Afghan human rights situation, expressed his condolences to the victims’ families.

“Recent floods in Afghanistan, including Baghlan, which claimed many lives, are a stark reminder of Afghanistan’s vulnerability to the climate crisis & both immediate aid and long-term planning by the Taliban & internal actors are needed,” Bennett wrote Saturday on X.

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 most vulnerable to climate change, which experts say is responsible for the unusually heavy seasonal rains.

Aid workers had warned before Friday’s devastation that any additional flooding would be detrimental for large swathes of the Afghan population, already reeling from an economic collapse, high levels of malnutrition and conflict.

“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,” the 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.

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