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Flash floods in northern Afghanistan sweep away livelihoods, leaving hundreds dead and missing

Shopkeeper Nazer Mohammad ran home as soon as he heard about flash floods crashing into the outskirts of a provincial capital in northern Afghanistan. By the time he got there, there was nothing left, including his family of five.

"Everything happened just all of a sudden. I came home, but there was no home there, instead I saw all the neighborhood covered by mud and water," said Mohammad. 48. He said that he buried his wife and two sons aged 15 and 8 years, but he's still looking for two daughters, who are around 6 and 11 years old.

Afghanistan Floods
An Afghan boy carries oil through muddy water, after heavy flooding in Baghlan province in northern Afghanistan Sunday, May 12, 2024. (AP Photo) / AP

The U.N. food agency estimated that unusually heavy seasonal rains in Afghanistan have left more than 300 people dead and thousands of houses destroyed, most of them in the northern province of Baghlan, which bore the brunt of the deluges Friday.

Mohammad said Sunday that he found the bodies of his wife and two sons late Friday night on the outskirt of Puli Khumri, the capital of Baghlan province.

"I hope someone has found my daughters alive," he said, holding back tears. "Just in the blink of an eye, I lost everything: family, home, belongings, now nothing is left to me."

Among at least 240 people dead are 51 children, according to UNICEF, one of several international aid groups that are sending relief teams, medicines, blankets and other supplies.

"The heavy rains and subsequent floods have disrupted lives and pose a significant risk to children in the affected provinces," said Tajudeen Oyewale, UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan, in a statement. "As families cope with the loss, maintaining access to safe water, health and protection services is paramount. As always, UNICEF stands with the children and people of Afghanistan during this difficult time," 

The World Health Organization said it delivered 7 tons of medicines and emergency kits.

Afghanistan Floods
People stand near damaged homes after heavy flooding in Baghlan province, in northern Afghanistan, Sunday, May 12, 2024. (AP Photo) / AP

Aid group Save the Children said about 600,000 people, half of them children, live in the five districts in Baghlan that have been severely impacted by the floods. The group said it sent a "clinic on wheels" with mobile health and child protection teams to support children and their families.

"Lives and livelihoods have been washed away," said Arshad Malik, country director for Save the Children. "The flash floods tore through villages, sweeping away homes and killing livestock. Children have lost everything. Families who are still reeling from the economic impacts of three years of drought urgently need assistance."

He said that Afghanistan was a country least prepared to cope with climate change patterns, such as the heavier seasonal rains, and needs help from the international community.

Afghanistan Floods
People received foods from residential people after heavy flooding in Baghlan province, in northern Afghanistan, Sunday, May 12, 2024. (AP Photo) / AP

At least 70 people died in April from heavy rains and flash floods in the country, which also destroyed About 2,000 homes, three mosques and four schools.

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