(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Floods, heavy snow kill 25 in two weeks

Avalanches in Salang Tunnel on 8-9 February killed over 15 passengers and wounded dozens more, government said
Masoud Popalzai/IRIN

Flash floods and heavy snowfall killed 25 people and damaged up to 3,000 houses in different parts of Afghanistan over the past two weeks, according to government officials.

At least 20 people died and 53 have been injured in Parwan, Herat, Wardak and Daykundi provinces, the Afghanistan National Disasters Management Authority (ANDMA) said. Five people lost their lives in mudslides and snowstorms in the northeastern province of Badakhshan, the provincial department of the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) said.

Shindand District in the western province of Herat is among the worst affected areas where, in addition to four deaths and over a dozen injured, almost 2,600 families have been affected, officials said.

“In the beginning we had difficulties in delivering aid to Shindand because of insecurity and road inaccessibility,” said Shafiq Behrozyan, a spokesman for the governor of Herat, adding that some humanitarian agencies had also opposed the transportation of aid items by military planes. “But we managed to send aid consignments by road.”

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) said it had dispatched 250 tons of food aid to Shindand and that distribution was ongoing.

“The government requested food assistance for 16,000 people in Herat and we approved the requested immediately,” said Challiss McDonough, a WFP spokeswoman in Kabul.

ANDMA said food and non-food aid supplies had reached most of the affected people.

“Various national and international organizations have participated in the provision and delivery of aid supplies and we are working hard to respond to all the needs,” said Mohammad Daim Kakar, ANDMA’s director.

Recurrent disasters

The latest wave of natural disasters comes amid growing concerns about drought in 2011 which is anticipated to result in agricultural losses, and exacerbate poverty and food insecurity. UN agencies say about eight million Afghans (28 percent of the population) will need food assistance this year.

“The poor early performance of Afghanistan’s main wet season and anticipated poor forecast are likely to produce large precipitation deficits and threaten the 2011 irrigated wheat harvest,” said an Afghanistan Food Security Outlook of the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS-NET) in January.

Such a stark drought warning prompted the Afghan government to start stockpiling wheat.

However, a weather update issued by FEWS-NET on 9 February said: “During mid-January and the beginning of February, moderate to heavy precipitation eliminated precipitation deficits across Afghanistan.”

Owing to the heavy snow over the past few weeks “snow water values are at or above average for most of the country,” according to the update which did not specify whether the country still faced drought risks in the summer of 2011, with potential agricultural losses.

The landlocked country with its rugged terrain is highly vulnerable to different kinds of natural disasters which adversely impact the lives of at least 400,000 people every year, according to aid agencies.


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