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Scores killed, many still missing after flash floods ravage Afghanistan, crumbling homes

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A villager reacts next to his destroyed house as rescuers search for bodies after a flash flood affected the area at Sayrah-e-Hopiyan in Charikar, Parwan province, on August 26, 2020. WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty

Flash flooding killed at least 122 people and left more than 150 others wounded Wednesday across Afghanistan, with the northern province of Parwan hit hardest, officials said. The head of a hospital in Parwan's regional capital CBS News that the death toll could "double, or even triple" as hundreds of people were still believed to be trapped under collapsed homes.

Wahida Shahkar, spokeswoman for the provincial governor, said rescue teams were trying to find people trapped under rubble after an overnight downpour unleashed torrents of water on the provincial capital of Charikar. The national office for disaster management said at least 1,500 houses were destroyed in the region.

Most of the 85 fatalities confirmed in Parwan and brought to the main hospital in Charikar were women and children, hospital director Khalil Haidari told to CBS News.

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A villager inspects a damaged car among the debris of houses in the city of Charikar, after a flash flood hit Afghanistan's Parwan northern province, August 26, 2020. WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty

Charikar farmer Mohamed Qasim told the AFP news agency that the flood had killed 11 members of his family.

"My sister, her husband, two of their daughters and their children were all sleeping in one house," Qasim said. "When the flood hit, the house collapsed on them. Eleven members of my family were killed, most of them my nieces and nephews."

The Ministry of Defense said in a statement that the nation's defense chief had arrived in the province to oversee the response and that the army had provided heavy machinery and other equipment to help clear the roads to enable rescue operations.

Men carry a victim who died in the floods in Charikar
Men carry a victim who died in floods in Charikar, the capital of Parwan province, Afghanistan, August 26, 2020. STRINGER/REUTERS

The downpour unleashed torrents of floodwater as far away as the capital Kabul, 100 miles south of Charikar, where at least eight people were reportedly found dead.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani ordered the Ministry of Public Health and the State Ministry for Disaster Management and Humanitarian Affairs to provide urgent assistance to the flood victims, according to a statement from the presidential palace.

Bayes Muhammadi, a local journalist in Parwan province who visited the area early Wednesday morning, said he witnessed destruction. He saw people digging with shovels and pickaxes to rescue their loved ones.

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Villagers retrieve belongings from the debris of their homes after a flash flood hit the area at Sayrah-e-Hopiyan in Charikar, Parwan province, Afghanistan, August 26, 2020. WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty

The unprecedented flooding in and around Charikar is yet another tragedy for the Afghan people, who witness daily carnage as Taliban and ISIS militants continue their fight against security services and target civilians.

Thousands of buildings in Afghanistan sit in flood hazard zones, close to rivers without proper flood mitigation measures. It could take weeks to assess the extent of the damage from the flooding and the cost to the people of Parwan.

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