Children pulled from mud as hundreds die in severe flooding in Afghanistan


AFGHANISTAN – Three bewildered children sit on the roof of a mosque in Baghlan province, northern Afghanistan, their eyes blinking away mud that covers their entire bodies. Beside them, a rescuer lowers their baby brother, 2-year-old Arian, to the rooftop, a sheet tied around his waist that was used to pull him from the raging floodwaters below. “Take it, let’s get take off the rope from his body,” the rescuer says on the video. “Bring his mother to hold him in her arms and be warm.”

In the past few days, at least 300 people have been killed in flooding in 18 districts across at least three provinces in northern Afghanistan, according to the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP), with at least 200 injured. Videos show raging torrents of mud washing away mud houses – and people, their limbs flailing, in the fast-moving brown current, as would-be rescuers watch from higher ground, beyond reach.

Aerial photos show belongings piled in plastic bags on rooftops, among them the hooded figures of women forced to cover their entire bodies even in times of disaster. In Folo, more than 100 people are believed to have been killed, he said – mostly women and children. Some burials began over the weekend, but many more are already believed to be buried deep beneath mud.

The torrent swept away animals and farmland in an area already facing severe food shortages, according to Timothy Anderson, head of the WFP in Afghanistan. He said the areas hit by floods had already been marked vulnerable to starvation after a difficult summer when searing heat brought drought. “It was already pretty grim. And now it’s catastrophic,” he told CNN. Most years, locals expect to see flash flooding, he said. But this year, it’s been far worse. The loss of the homes and their land is devastating for survivors, who were already among some of the country’s most impoverished people, Anderson said.

This latest natural disaster comes after drought in Afghanistan, and is being seen as an example of a climate crisis hitting those who have least contributed to rising global temperatures.

“The need is massive, not just in Afghanistan. The world is seeing the impacts of much larger, more severe events, whether that’s drought, rainfalls cyclones,” Anderson said.

In a statement Sunday, Teresa Anderson, the Global Climate Justice Lead at ActionAid International, said: “The climate crisis continues to rear its ugly head. With the latest incident, Afghanistan joins a long list of Global South countries grappling with floods this year,” she said.