At least 52 dead after landslide in Afghanistan

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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A massive landslide in a remote province in northeastern Afghanistan on Tuesday killed at least 52 people, a provincial official said.

The stricken area in Badakhshan province is cut off from the rest of the country, covered in snow and is only accessible from the air, significantly hampering any rescue efforts, according to Shah Waliullah Adeeb, the provincial governor.

Badakhshan is one of the poorest and least developed regions of Afghanistan, and regularly suffers huge landslides when the snows begin to melt in spring.

Tuesday’s landslide struck early in the morning in the province’s Khawahan district, near the border with Tajikistan. The isolated area is located about 200 kilometers (124 miles) from the provincial capital, Faizabad, Adeeb said.

There are no roads leading to it and “the only way to reach it is by helicopter,” he added. “We won’t be able to get there today. We are preparing to go to the area and are waiting for the choppers to take us there.”

In early May last year, at least 350 people were buried by a mudslide in the same province. Badakhshan is in the Hindu Kush and Pamir mountain ranges and borders both Tajikistan and at its most eastern point, China.

Unchecked environmental degradation and deforestation across large parts of Afghanistan contribute to a growing problem of landslides when winter snows melt and seasonal rains begin.

The remoteness of Khawahan district is also likely to limit casualties, as villages in the region are small and most people are subsistence farmers.