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Afghan Landslide: Search For Survivors Ends; Thousands Feared Dead

Afghan villagers pray at the site of a landslide in Abi-Barik Saturday. Rescuers searched in vain for survivors of the disaster, which is feared to have killed more than 2,000 people.
Afghan villagers pray at the site of a landslide in Abi-Barik Saturday. Rescuers searched in vain for survivors of the disaster, which is feared to have killed more than 2,000 people.

More than 2,000 people are believed to be dead after a hillside collapsed on part of a remote village in Afghanistan, where rescue attempts have largely been abandoned. Heavy rain prompted the landslide, which enclosed hundreds of houses in more than 30 feet of mud.

The U.N. and relief agencies are working to help more than 4,000 displaced people in Abi-Barik, the village in northeastern Afghanistan's Badakhshan province where the landslide occurred.

The event took place in two stages, the BBC reports:

"Hundreds of homes were buried on Friday when a section of a mountain collapsed following torrential rain.

"A second landslide then followed, killing the rescuers who had rushed in to help dig people out."

As the news agency says, the landslide hit Friday morning, a traditional day of rest in Afghanistan, meaning that many residents were in or around their homes.

The exact death toll may not be known for days. Friday afternoon, conflicting reports from Afghan officials put the number of the missing at anywhere from 400 to more than 2,100 people.

"That will be their cemetery," the AP quotes Mohammad Karim Khalili, one of Afghanistan's two vice presidents, saying Saturday. "It is not possible to bring out any bodies."

Those who survived the landslide say they did so by moving to high ground immediately, or by mere luck. But many of them say they lost relatives on Friday.

"Seven members of my family were here, four or five of them were killed ... I am also half alive, what can I do?" an elderly woman tells Reuters.

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The landslide that struck Afghanistan's Abi-Barik village Saturday came in two stages. The second, larger landslide claimed the lives of the first wave of rescuers while they tried to dig out survivors.
Sayed Ibrahim / AP
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The landslide that struck Afghanistan's Abi-Barik village Saturday came in two stages. The second, larger landslide claimed the lives of the first wave of rescuers while they tried to dig out survivors.

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