10 dead, hundreds of houses destroyed in Afghan landslide

There were shouts that there was a flood, then people started to run away. (Shutterstock)
Updated 12 July 2018
0

10 dead, hundreds of houses destroyed in Afghan landslide

  • At least 10 people killed, hundreds of homes destroyed in Afghanistan after melting snow triggers landslide
  • A mountain lake overflowed and sent water and mud cascading over Peshghor village

KABUL: At least 10 people were killed and hundreds of homes destroyed in a remote area of northeastern Afghanistan after melting snow triggered a landslide, officials said Thursday.
A mountain lake in Panjshir, a province north of Kabul known for its snowcapped peaks, overflowed and sent water and mud cascading over Peshghor village, Omar Mohammadi, spokesman for the disaster management ministry, told AFP.
Jamil Ahmad was lying in bed just before midnight when he said he heard a sound like “jets” flying overhead.
“Somebody shouted ‘Flood!’ and I ran away with my family to higher ground,” Ahmad told AFP by telephone.
“The people started firing (weapons) into the air to warn others about the flood.”
The water and mud had inundated most of the houses in the village, and destroyed a religious school, two mosques and the main market, Ahmad said.
“Three women from my neighborhood and two laborers who didn’t hear the warning were taken away by the flood,” Ahmad said.
Villagers had been worried about the possibility of landslides after several days of increasingly warm weather, Ahmad said.
Most survivors were staying on higher ground for fear of more, he added.
Photos posted on social media purportedly showed houses and farmland covered in water and mud after the Panjshir River broke its banks.
Villagers using shovels and other tools were desperately searching for survivors in the debris as rescue teams were deployed to the area, Mohammadi said.
“We have deployed everything at hand to help the people,” he said. “Some people are missing.”
Disasters such as avalanches and flash floods often hit in mountainous areas of Afghanistan as snow melts in the spring and summer. It is made worse by deforestation.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who is in Brussels for the NATO summit, said he was “deeply saddened” by the latest natural disaster.
“A number of people have lost their lives” in the landslide, Ghani said in a statement.
He ordered “relevant authorities to provide urgent assistance to the affected people.”
The landslide comes as the country is in the grip of a nearly 17-year war between Afghan security forces and the Taliban.


Migrant caravan blockade: US Army unfurls fencing along border with Mexico

Updated 19 November 2018
0

Migrant caravan blockade: US Army unfurls fencing along border with Mexico

  • Some Laredo residents had voiced disquiet about the fencing and the presence of US troops
  • ‘It reminds me of Hitler and the concentration camps’

LAREDO, United State: They started work in the cool of the morning and moved quickly, uncoiling reel after reel of vicious-looking fencing and tying it with barbed wire to green poles hammered into the ground.
Over the course of three days, a gleaming, shoulders-high barrier of concertina-wire emerged like a silver snake along a lush riverbank, stretching as far as the eye could see.
This was the work of 100 or so American troops from the 19th Engineer Battalion, based in Fort Knox, Kentucky.
Rather than finding themselves in a far-off warzone, the soldiers are in Laredo, a busy border town overlooking a stretch of the Rio Grande river in southwest Texas, carrying out controversial orders from President Donald Trump.
He has sent about 5,800 troops to the border to forestall the arrival of large groups of Central American migrants traveling through Mexico and toward the US, in a move critics decry as a costly political stunt to galvanize supporters ahead of midterm elections earlier this month.
Before the election Trump called the matter a “national emergency” and warned that so-called migrant caravans were an “invasion” with “some very bad thugs and gang members.”
So far at least, the most visible aspect of Trump’s deployment is the fence, a visible deterrent and physical obstacle to migrants, designed to corral would-be asylum seekers toward organized points of entry into the US.
Over the weekend, Lt. Alan Koepnick’s platoon could be seen stringing concertina wire, which is built to snag clothing, along one edge of a quiet riverside park near downtown Laredo.
As families walked dogs, grilled sausages and relaxed, the soldiers mounted the wire, occasionally ripping their camouflaged uniforms on its metal barbs.
Koepnick said some Laredo residents had voiced disquiet about the fencing and the presence of US troops.
“But there’s also been a lot of support, people coming in, vets shaking our hands, bringing us cakes, water, things like that,” Koepnick said.
About 100 yards (meters) behind him, a group of people on the Mexican side of the river could be seen standing on the bank.
“You’ll see people across the river cursing at us in Spanish, throwing bottles at us. But on this side it’s more positive,” Koepnick said.
He and his soldiers were unarmed, but a group of armed military police officers stood by to provide “force protection.”
Under US law, the military is not allowed to conduct domestic law enforcement in most cases, so soldiers here will not have any direct interactions with migrants.
Trump created a media whirlwind by sounding the alarm about the migrant caravans before the November 6 elections. He has mainly stopped raising it since, though last week he praised the military’s work.
“They built great fencing, they built a very powerful fence,” said Trump, who wants to build a hardened wall along the entire 2,000-mile (3,200-kilometer) border.
Laura Pole, a British tourist visiting Laredo for the third time, was less enthusiastic.
“It reminds me of Hitler and the concentration camps,” she said, but added: “I really don’t know what’s the best thing to do.”
The border mission has put the supposedly non-political military in an uncomfortable spotlight.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has hit back at critics who say the Pentagon should not be doing Trump’s political bidding, saying “we don’t do stunts.”
He visited troops on the border last week and reiterated that their job in the short term was to assist under-resourced Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents and put up physical obstacles.
But “longer term, it’s somewhat to be determined,” he said.
After some rank-and-file troops grumbled about the purpose of the mission to US media last week, they are now under strict instructions not to voice personal opinions to the press.
Several soldiers AFP spoke to said their time on the border provided valuable real-world training, albeit without the risks of combat.
“We have a very large group of brand-new soldiers and it’s really good for them,” Corporal Samuel Fletcher said, citing a chance for the green troops “to do real work and put their skills to use.”
In Laredo, large groups of migrants from the caravans in Mexico had not arrived.
Instead they were mainly headed to Tijuana, about 1,300 miles away in San Diego, where authorities say more than 3,000 have already arrived.
Still, a CBP agent, who was not authorized to give his name, said he was glad of the military assistance as each day, “hundreds” of migrants attempt to cross the approximately 30-mile stretch of border he patrols.
The military deployment is set to wrap up December 15 and it is not clear what will become of the wire fencing.
Already, the winds whistling down the Rio Grande valley are strewing trash, clothing and plastic bags along the jagged wire.
“Nobody seems to know when it’s coming down. It’s not really our decision,” said Koepnick.
“If we are told to take it down, we will take it down with a smile on our faces, like good soldiers.”