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**BREAKING**AFGHANISTAN: Over 80 killed and thousands displaced by floods and avalanches

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04/01/2007 01:30 PM
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**BREAKING**AFGHANISTAN: Over 80 killed and thousands displaced by floods and avalanches
KABUL, 1 April 2007 (IRIN) - KABUL, 1 April 2007 (IRIN) - Flash floods and avalanches have killed 83 people and damaged hundreds of houses across a third of Afghanistan's provinces, officials say.

The government of Afghanistan has declared humanitarian emergencies in 13 of its 34 provinces and has requested urgent assistance from the international community.

"The current scale of the disaster is beyond our capacity and we face difficulty in providing assistance to the affected people," conceded Karim Khalili, Afghanistan's second vice president and head of the National Emergency Committee (NEC).

Heavy rains, aggravated by rapidly melting winter snows, have caused destructive flooding across Afghanistan since early March. Floods have hit the capital, Kabul, and cut off major highways, hampering relief efforts.

On Saturday, 14 people were killed and 12 others injured as flood waters washed two districts in the central province of Dai Kundi, confirmed Abdul Matin Adrak, chairman of Afghanistan's Department for Disaster Preparedness (DDP).

In Kunar province, in the east of Afghanistan, 13 people have been killed and more than 1,100 houses damaged by floods, according to the governor of Kunar, Haji Shalizai Deedar.

"We are facing a humanitarian crisis," Deedar told IRIN, adding "hundreds of families need urgent assistance."

Elsewhere in Shiwa and Zebak districts of Badakhshan province in the northeast, avalanches and floods have killed 13 and wounded three.

According to the governor of Badakhshan, Munshi Abdul Majid, "11 more people are missing and 10 others are trapped by an avalanche."

Officials in Kabul say the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force assisted in the evacuation of hundreds of families in Parwan, Kunar and Urozgan provinces.

In the west of Afghanistan, six people have been killed and up to 1,700 houses destroyed in the Gulran and Chusht districts of Herat province, the director of the Afghan Red Crescent Society in Herat, Noor-u-Din Ahmadi, confirmed.

Flooding has also hit the national capital, Kabul. On Friday and Saturday heavy rains caused the Kabul River to burst its banks, destroying tens of houses and displacing some 1,100 families, officials say.

"Hundreds of houses, including some of the most populated areas in Kabul city, could be damaged, if heavy rainfall continues in the coming days," warned Engineer Yusuf Pashtoon, Afghanistan's Minister for Urban Development.

Other provinces affected by flooding include Panjshir, Kapisa and Khost.

Besides human casualties, tens of thousands of hectares of agricultural land have been damaged in many parts of the impoverished country just as crops are due to be planted. Hundreds of families have also lost livestock.

UN agencies and other relief organisations have already delivered foodstuffs, blankets, medicine and tents to many affected Afghan families while scaled-up operations are planned.

However, damaged roads, rugged terrain and insecurity have impeded the humanitarian response and many flood-affected people have received no assistance yet.

Afghan government officials accept shortcomings in the relief operations, but point to logistical obstacles.

"Over 300km of roads have been destroyed throughout the country," said Adrak from DDP "and we are working to find alternative routes for traffic."

The main Salang highway that connects Kabul with provinces in the north has been closed to traffic since Saturday when flood waters destroyed parts of the road.

Flash floods also washed away an important bridge in the south of Kabul province causing traffic problems between the capital and provinces in the south.

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