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Death toll from Afghan flood climbs to 81

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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — More than 80 bodies have been found two days after a devastating flash flood in Afghanistan’s mountainous and remote north, a provincial official said Sunday, as police and villagers scoured the rugged terrain for missing people and Army helicopters flew in supplies to thousands left homeless.

Lt. Fazel Rahman, the police chief in the Guzirga i-Nur district of Baghlan province, said the death toll from Friday’s flash flooding had climbed to 81 from 54. Some 850 houses across several villages were completely destroyed and more than 1,000 were damaged by the heavy rain and flooding, leaving thousands of people in need of shelter, food, water and medicine, Rahman said.

Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi said Army helicopters were assisting in relief efforts in the remote district, which is just 140 kilometers (85 miles) north of the provincial capital Puli Khumri, but is an eight to nine hour journey by land because of the rugged terrain.

Rahman said local authorities had received around 100 tents, several hundred blankets and some food, but that more supplies were needed.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has appointed a high-ranking government commission to accelerate emergency aid to the affected villages and expressed his “deep condolences” to those who lost loved ones, the palace said in a statement Sunday.

Afghans living in the northern mountains have largely been spared from the country’s decades of war, but are no strangers to natural disasters.

Last month, a landslide triggered by heavy rain buried large sections of a remote village in the northeastern Badakhshan province bordering China, displacing some 700 families. Authorities have yet to provide an exact figure on the number of dead from the May 2 landslide, and estimates have ranged from 250 to 2,700. Officials said it was impossible to dig up all the bodies.

A landslide in Baghlan province in 2012 killed 71 people. After days of digging unearthed only five bodies, authorities gave up on the recovery effort and turned the area into a memorial.