Afghans find victims entombed by avalanche
RAWANAK THE only warning was the strong wind that howled through the village of Daspai.
One minute Nazar Khuda’s sister was at her sewing machine. The next minute she was dead.
She was one of at least 50 people killed when an avalanche of snow, ice and mud thundered off a nearby mountain and buried the village in a disaster-prone area of northeastern Afghanistan where Mother Nature is a bigger enemy than the Taliban.
“We dug down to find the house, and we found the body of my sister over the sewing machine,” said Khuda, who lost a total of eight relatives in the avalanche that struck at 9 am last Sunday. “When I saw her body, I couldn’t stop crying.
After that, I helped others dig bodies out of the snow.” Twenty children and teenagers and two teachers were found dead inside a mosque where they had been studying the Holy Quran.
People from nearby villages continued to work on Saturday to see if any more people were still buried in up to 10 feet (3 metres) of snow in the remote village that is still cut off from most outsiders. It’s unclear if more will be found.
Government officials said 200 people lived in Daspai, but area residents said that estimate was high. They said up to 13 people were injured.
Accounts by Khuda and others who walked through deep snow to get to Daspai are the first detailed narratives of the tragedy in Shakay district of Badakhshan province near the Tajikistan border.
“We spent all day looking for our family members,” Khuda said on Thursday, standing atop a steep mountain in Rawanak, about a five-hour trek over snow-covered mountains from the avalanche site.
“From morning until evening, we dug in the snow and mud. The wooden beams of the houses had collapsed. It was difficult to find the bodies.” His sister’s 4-year-old son, 6-year-old daughter, who was at the mosque, her husband and four relatives from his family also died in the avalanche.