"--IANS/WAM"
Kabul, May 3 - At least 350 people were killed Friday after a series of landslides triggered by heavy rain hit Afghanistan's Badakhshan district, said the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.

On behalf of the UN humanitarian agencies, I wish to extend our condolences to all those families who have lost loved ones as a result of these landslides. There have now been more Afghans killed through natural disasters in the past seven days than all of 2013, Mark Bowden, UN humanitarian coordinator in Afghanistan said in a press release.

The Afghan government's provincial disaster management committees are leading the coordination of operational response within Badakhshan with support from humanitarian agencies.

While search and rescue operations remain the immediate priority, assessments have been initiated to determine the full extent of the damage caused, as well as responding to the immediate needs of the people.

The foremost priority at the moment is saving as many lives as possible of those still beneath the rubble, Bowden said.

The UN system is fully engaged in the ongoing effort and is mobilising more capacity and resources to bolster the response.

The northern region of Afghanistan continues to be susceptible to recurring natural disasters, where seasonal rains and spring snow melt regularly result in life-threatening flash floods and landslides.

Given these ongoing risks and vulnerabilities, the critical importance of investing in disaster risk reduction and enhanced mitigation measures must remain a key priority in those communities most prone to hazards, Bowden added.

--IANS/WAM

ab/gd/


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