KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Bulldozers dug through tons of rocks and dirt on Wednesday in hopes of recovering 71 victims of a landslide that occurred after two earthquakes struck in northern Afghanistan earlier this week.
Two bodies have been recovered so far and 69 other people are feared dead — entombed in the rubble in Baghlan province's Burka district, Mahmood Haqmal, the spokesman for the province, said Wednesday.
Wielding shovels, nearby villagers and Afghan policemen dug into the dirt alongside three bulldozers as they uncovered beams of houses crushed under the weight of the landslide.
"We have to dig and find the 69 other bodies," Haqmal said. "I do not know how long it will take. It is not an easy task, but the government has promised that they will not leave the bodies under the rocks ... they will stay until they find the last bodies."
The U.S. Geological Survey said one earthquake with a magnitude of 5.4 struck the region on Monday morning, followed by a magnitude 5.7 quake. Both caused buildings to shake in the Afghan capital, Kabul, 190 kilometers (120 miles) to the south.
Damage was reported in five areas of the province, but the worst was in the village of Sayi Hazara. The village, which is home to about 20 families, was buried under an estimated 30 meters (yards) of rocks and dirt, according to the governor of the province, Gov. Abdul Majid, who reached the area on Tuesday afternoon after a four-hour drive from the provincial capital of Pul-e-Khumri.
One Monday, local officials feared that as many as 100 people could have been killed. On Tuesday, officials in Baghlan revised the number to 50 or fewer, but after a few survivors from the village were interviewed, they now believe 71 people are feared dead.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Wednesday that non-governmental agencies, Afghan government offices, the U.N. and the Afghan Red Crescent Society have sent tents, blankets, water, bulldozers, hand tools, food, ambulances and other aid to the site.
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