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Afghanistan floods: Children pulled from mud as hundreds die in severe flooding



CNN

Three disoriented children sit on the roof of a mosque in northern Afghanistan’s Baghlan province, their eyes blinking from the mud that covers their entire bodies.

Next to them, a rescuer places their little brother, Arian, 2, on the roof, a sheet tied around his waist which was used to pull him from the raging waters below.

“Take him, let’s get the rope off his body,” the rescuer says in the video. “Bring his mother to hold him and be warm.”

In recent days, at least 300 people have been killed in floods in 18 districts of at least three provinces in northern Afghanistan, according to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP), and at least 200 have been injured.

Videos show raging torrents of mud sweeping away mud houses – and people waving their limbs in the fast-moving brown current, while would-be rescuers watch from higher ground, out of reach.

The rescued children, aged 3, 5 and 6, were among eight siblings who were at their parents’ house in Folo in Bulka district of Baghlan when the floods hit.

Group of Afghan journalists

Three children, aged 3, 5 and 6, on the roof of a mosque in Baghlan province, Afghanistan, after being rescued from floods and torrents of mud.

Their uncle Barakatullah, son of Haji Wakil Besmillah, the local school principal, told CNN that something menacing appeared to be brewing late last week when strong winds swept through the district and neighboring areas, shrouding everything in darkness.

“The visibility was so bad we couldn’t even see each other,” he said.

Then rain began to fall gently during Friday prayers – an unusual occurrence for locals, who say it doesn’t rain this high very often in this mountainous region that is home to about 10,000 people, he added. .

As the rain became heavier, the situation “became dire.”

“People fled to higher ground, seeking refuge in the mountains and hills. Unfortunately, some people who were unable to leave their homes fell victim to the floodwaters,” he said.

Aerial photos show personal belongings piled into plastic bags on rooftops, including hooded figures of women forced to cover their entire bodies even in times of disaster.

“Women who were rescued are forced to wear clothes soaked in mud, while even infants aged 2 to 3 months wear equally dirty clothes,” Barakatullah said.

In Folo, more than 100 people were believed to have been killed, he said, most of them women and children.

Some burials began this weekend, but many others are estimated to be already buried deep beneath the mud.

From drought and hunger to floods

The torrent swept away animals and farmland in a region already facing severe food shortages, according to Timothy Anderson, head of the WFP in Afghanistan.

He said flood-hit areas were already vulnerable to famine after a difficult summer when scorching heat led to drought.

“It was already pretty dark. And now it’s catastrophic,” he told CNN.

Most years, residents expect flash floods, he said. But this year it’s much worse.

The loss of their homes and land is devastating for the survivors, who were already among the poorest people in the country, Anderson said.

“When people lose a little bit of livestock, that’s actually their livelihood,” he said.

Road access to the worst-affected areas was cut off by floodwaters, forcing WFP to use donkeys to deliver supplies.

From day one, WFP distributed high-energy biscuits and food to children. They also support local bakeries to provide free bread. In the coming days, teams will begin distributing food to feed families for a month – what happens next is unclear.

Anderson said 17 joint assessment teams were being sent to the region, along with other UN partners. He said it would take teams four or five days to properly examine the impact of the flooding on people, their homes and infrastructure.

Atif Aryan/AFP/Getty Images

Workers repair a road destroyed by floods in Nahrin district, Baghlan province, May 12, 2024.

This latest natural disaster comes after the drought in Afghanistan and is seen as an example of a climate crisis hitting those who have contributed the least to rising global temperatures.

“They are not net carbon emitters,” said Anderson of the WFP. “This is a subsistence agricultural community and society. They therefore suffer the consequences, without having contributed much to it.”

He said that during the last dry months, efforts had been made to help the community capture rainfall in dams and irrigation canals to support crops. Today, those efforts have been undone, posing another challenge.

“The needs are enormous, not only in Afghanistan. The world is seeing the impacts of much larger and more severe events, whether droughts or rain cyclones,” Anderson said.

Richard Bennett, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Afghanistan, said the recent floods “are a stark reminder of Afghanistan’s vulnerability to the climate crisis”.

And in a statement on Sunday, Teresa Anderson, head of global climate justice at ActionAid International, said: “The climate crisis continues to rear its ugly head. »

“With this latest incident, Afghanistan joins a long list of countries in the South grappling with flooding this year,” she said.

News Source : amp.cnn.com
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