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More than 2,000 missing in Afghan landslide

Afghans search for survivors after a massive landslide landslide buried a village Friday, May 2, 2014 in Badakhshan province, northeastern Afghanistan, which Afghan and U.N. officials say left hundreds of dead and missing missing.(AP Photo/Ahmad Zubair)

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By The Associated Press
Friday, May 2, 2014, 7:39 p.m.

KABUL, Afghanistan — A landslide triggered by heavy rain buried large sections of a remote northeastern Afghan village on Friday, killing at least 350 people and leaving more than 2,000 missing. Villagers looked on helplessly, and the governor appealed for shovels to help dig through the mass of mud that flattened every home in its path.

The mountainous area in Badakhshan province has experienced days of heavy rain and flooding, and the side of a cliff collapsed onto the village of Hobo Barik about midday. Landslides and avalanches are frequent in Afghanistan, but Friday's was one of the deadliest.

Gov. Shah Waliullah Adeeb said more than 2,000 people were missing after the landslide buried about 300 homes — about a third of all the houses in the area.

At least 350 people were confirmed dead, according to Ari Gaitanis, a spokesman from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. He said the U.N. was working with authorities on the ground to rescue people still trapped.

The governor said rescue crews were working but didn't have enough equipment.

“It's physically impossible right now,” Adeeb said. “We don't have enough shovels; we need more machinery.”

Badakhshan's provincial police chief, Maj. Gen. Faziluddin Hayar, said rescuers had pulled seven survivors and three bodies from the mounds of mud and earth but held out little hope that more survivors would be found.

“Now, we can only help the displaced people. Those trapped under the landslide and who have lost lives, it is impossible to do anything for them,” Hayar said.

Video footage of the scene showed a large section of the mountain collapsed, sending mud and earth tumbling onto the village below.

The landslide was likely caused by heavy rain, said Abdullah Homayun Dehqan, the province's director for the National Disaster Department. He said floods last week in several districts of the province killed four people, and eight were still missing.

Landslides occur frequently in the province, but they generally happen in remote areas and produce far fewer casualties, said Mohammad Usman Abu Zar of the Meteorology Department of Badakhshan province.

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