NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Flash floods in northern Afghanistan have killed more than 120 people and forced tens of thousands from their homes, aid agencies and the United Nations said on Monday.
Triggered by several days of heavy rainfall, the floods have washed away houses and roads and destroyed crops in parts of six provinces - Jawzjan, Faryab, Sar-e-Pul, Balkh, Samangan and Takhar.
The U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said many people were still missing and authorities and aid agencies were trying to assess the damage and provide aid to survivors.
"The foremost priority at the moment is saving lives. Whilst search and rescue operations continue ... assessments in flood-hit areas have been initiated to determine the full extent of the damage caused, as well as responding to the immediate needs of the population," said a statement from OCHA.
"With some areas still difficult to access, it may be some time yet until a clear picture of the full extent of the damage is known."
Aid workers said Afghan army helicopters had been evacuating people to safer areas on higher ground. Some of the displaced had taken refuge in madrassas (Islamic schools) while others remained living out in the open.
The charity Save the Children estimated that at least 40,000 people - 25,000 of whom were children - had been affected by the deluge which began last week.
It said there was an urgent need for clean drinking water, medicines, food rations and emergency shelter materials such as tarpaulin sheets.
"It was fortunate that our warehouses were so close to the worst-affected areas, so that we were able to respond as quickly as we have to assist the worst-affected children and their families," said Onno van Manen, Save the Children's Afghanistan director.
"But more help is needed. At least 1,000 houses have been completely destroyed, which means many children are without a roof over their heads, hot food from their homes and a blanket to make them feel safe them at night."
The northern region of Afghanistan is prone to natural disasters, where seasonal rains and spring snow melt regularly result in life-threatening flash floods.