Thousands thought dead in landslide
11:48am Sunday 4th May 2014 in © Press Association 2014
Humanitarian teams, including British charities, are urgently handing out aid to Afghans hit by the deadly landslide - as officials declare the area a burial zone.
Charities warned that more than 2,000 people are feared to have been killed after a massive landslide struck the remote north-eastern province of Badakhshan on Friday.
Health charity Merlin, which is part of Save the Children, was among the first organisations on the scene, providing crucial medical assistance to families caught up in the natural disaster.
Andrew Morris, chief of Unicef for the Northern Region of Afghanistan, said the area had been ravaged by the "exceptionally large" mudslide.
Speaking from northern Afghanistan on Sunday, he said: "There is d evastation because of the landslide. Half of one village has been completely buried by the mud. The other half of the village is empty because people evacuated in case the landslide slid further.
"In another village people have moved because they are afraid of more landslides. So a little bit of chaos. And several hundred people living under tents.
"Yesterday afternoon the rescue effort stopped. The whole area has been declared a burial ground, our staff described it as in some places as deep as 50 metres of mud.
"The whole side of the mountain collapsed. Initially, after the first landslide, men from the neighbouring villages all ran to help with search and rescue. But the landslide slid further and killed all of them as well.
"It has left a number of children without fathers, and that is an additional tragedy here."
He said getting clean water and emergency sanitation to the area were the number one priority.
Then the difficult task of rebuilding the lives of the villagers - including the many children who have lost family in the tragedy - will begin.
He said: "Our first priority was to get water supplies going - people had just a few bottles of water handed out yesterday by visitors, the local government.
"At the same time we are urgently looking at sanitation.
"Then we have to help children to overcome this traumatic event. We have got to get them back to school as soon as we can. That is part of the return to normalcy."
The tragedy is "disastrous" for children, many of whom have been left fatherless by the landslide, Mr Morris warned.
Fathers were the sole breadwinner for many families in the already desperately poor area. Their deaths raises the propsect that villagers could slip into further poverty, malnutrition and death, he warned.
Mr Morris said: " In that province they are desperately poor, so this added shock can flip someone who is poor into a situation where they can barely survive.
"And then two or three months down the line we will see that the youngest children are not gaining weight, they become malnourished. And that puts them in the cycle of malnutrition disease, and unfortunately death.
"For communities affected by this, it is not just the immediate response - we have got to be looking at the follow up."
British charities were among the groups handing out the much-needed aid.
Onno Van Manen, acting country director for Save the Children in Afghanistan, said the newly merged charity had sent aid workers to the stricken area.
He said: "They have dispatched five ambulances, set up mobile health clinics, and have medical staff on stand-by to support the injured in this disaster."
While Oxfam's Afghanistan country director John Watt said the organisation is "readying a response".