MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan: Landslides buried a village in northern Afghanistan on Friday, killing at least 350 people and leaving thousands of others feared dead, as rescuers searched desperately for survivors trapped under the mud.

Villagers at the disaster site in Badakhshan province used shovels to dig through rocks and dirt, with national authorities, the United Nations and the US-led military force all racing to assess the damage and provide help.

Badakhshan governor Shah Waliullah Adeeb told AFP by telephone that the death toll could be as high as 2,500.”Our initial findings based on local people´s reports show around 2,500 people, including women and children, might be dead,” he said.”It is difficult to get confirmed information from the scene and we are seeking to determine the facts.”Provincial officials said that two successive landslides hit Aab Bareek village within one hour as a hillside collapsed, engulfing hundreds of mud-brick homes.

Villagers were at Friday prayers in two mosques when they were swamped by a tide of debris, and the second landslide hit many who had rushed to assist those in need.”The number of deceased has increased to 350,” the UN mission in Afghanistan said in a statement.

“A response is being mobilised for those who survived but were displaced, with some partners already on the ground.”(NATO´s) Regional Command in the north (is) in contact with the Afghan National Army in regards to search and rescue efforts.”

Badakhshan is a remote, mountainous province in northeast Afghanistan bordering Tajikistan, China and Pakistan.President Hamid Karzai expressed his condolences to those affected and said immediate action was being taken to save survivors as emergency efforts continued after darkness fell.

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama on Friday bemoaned the “awful tragedy” in Afghanistan where hundreds of people are missing after a landslide. “Our thoughts are with the people of Afghanistan who have experienced an awful tragedy,” Obama said.”Many people are reported missing.We stand ready to help our Afghan partners as they respond to this disaster,” Obama said at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

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