Flash flooding killed at least 70 people and left almost 100 others wounded Wednesday in Afghanistan’s northern Parwan province, officials said. The head of a hospital in the worst-hit region told 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.
Most of the 72 fatalities and 95 wounded that had been brought to the main hospital in Charikar early on Wednesday were women and children, hospital director Khalil Haidari told to CBS News.
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.
Shahkar said that somewhere between 300 and 500 homes were completely destroyed by the floodwater, and that every minute another body was being pulled from the mud and debris.
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.
The unprecedented flooding in and around Charikar is yet another tragedy for the Afghan people, who witness daily carnage asagainst security services and .
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.