Hundreds of people were dead or missing after landslides in remote northeast Afghanistan buried a village under as much as 60 feet of mud and rocks, officials said Friday.
The United Nations said that at least 350 people had been killed in Badakhshan, a rugged province on the Chinese border. Shah Waliullah Adeeb, the provincial governor, said about 2,500 people were trapped under the landslides, which came Friday afternoon after several days of heavy rain.
A search-and-rescue effort was underway and eight people had been pulled out alive, according to Afghan news agencies. Afghan soldiers and police who reached the village were having difficulty with the rescue effort due to the scale of the landslides, Adeeb said.
"We found that it's impossible to rescue those people even… with machinery. They are covered in about 20 meters of dirt," Adeeb said in a telephone interview.
An initial landslide crushed about 300 homes, he said, and when several hundred people went to the scene on Friday to try to rescue them they were hit with a second deadly landslide.
President Obama said the United States was ready to assist the rescue effort.
"I want to say on behalf of the American people that our thoughts are with the people of Afghanistan, who have experienced an awful tragedy," Obama said at the White House during a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Amid further heavy rain and melting snow, officials feared that more landslides were possible in the area. About 700 additional families living on a hillside near Aab Barik were told to climb to higher ground and wait for emergency aid, including tents, to reach them, Adeeb said.