Afghan official: Up to 50 killed in earthquake

Associated Press
An Afghan man mourns the death of relatives near the site after an earthquake hit Baghlan province, north of Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, June 11, 2012. As many as 100 people are feared dead after an earthquake struck northern Afghanistan this morning. The governor of Baghlan province says the quake triggered a landslide that buried a remote village under mud and rocks. He says rescuers have so far pulled two bodies from the rubble, while the U.N. confirms one other death. The world body says houses were destroyed across five districts in all. (AP Photo/Jawed Basharat)
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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — As many as 50 people are feared entombed under tons of rock and stone that buried a village in a landslide after two earthquakes in northern Afghanistan, authorities said Tuesday.

A single bulldozer worked to uncover the bodies of those killed in Monday's landslide after the earthquakes struck the Hindu Kush region, but villagers fear there will be no survivors.

So far, rescuers have only recovered the bodies of two women, according to Gov. Abdul Majid of Baghlan province who reached the area on Tuesday afternoon after a four-hour drive from the provincial capital of Pul-e-Khumri.

"It's impossible to get to the bodies," the governor said. "They estimate that they are buried in 30 meters of rock. There are tons of rocks and stones covering the village."

Baghlan province's Burka district, the site of the landslide, is a remote collection of mountain villages. Majid estimated that the rubble covered one hectare of land (2.5 acres) around the village of Sayi Hazara, which is home to about 20 families.

"Nobody will be alive," he said.

One bulldozer was working at the site, another one was being repaired and a third was being transported to the area to help with the excavation, he said.

One earthquake with a magnitude of 5.4 struck the region Monday morning, followed by a 5.7 quake, the U.S. Geological Survey said. Both quakes caused buildings to shake in the Afghan capital, Kabul, 190 kilometers (120 miles) to the south.

On Monday, local officials feared that as many as 100 people could have been killed, but after visiting the site, the governor revised the number to 50 or fewer.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that after hearing about the landslide, he dispatched government officials to the area. He said national disaster officials reached the site on Monday night.

The police led a team of rescue workers and medics from Pul-e-Khumri, but discovered on arrival that they could be of little use. The handful of people who survived the landslide had already been driven to clinics.

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