By Storay Karimy and Orooj Hakimi
HERAT, Afghanistan/KABUL (Reuters) – Heavy rains caused flash floods in western Afghanistan that killed at least 17 people, destroying homes and sweeping through makeshift shelters that housed displaced families, a government official said on Saturday.
Two days of flooding that started on Thursday killed 12 people in Jawzjan and two in Badghis, provinces that border Turkmenistan, said Hasibullah Shir Khani, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s National Disaster Management Authority.
Two others were killed in Herat and another in Sar-e Pul province, he said.
More than 500 houses were destroyed.
The floods worsen an already desperate situation. Hundreds of thousands of people are displaced in western Afghanistan from last year’s severe drought. Floods in early March caused further destruction and put this year’s wheat harvest at risk.
Children waded through muddy, knee-deep floodwaters that flowed through tent camps for displaced people after the rain stopped.
Officials in Herat, which borders Iran, put the death toll higher than the national government. Dr. Abdul Hakim Tamana, head of public health for the province, said eight people were killed and nine injured.
Floods have destroyed hundreds of homes, some historic sites, thousands of acres of farmland, bridges and highways, said Jilani Farhad, a spokesman for Herat province.
Aid organization World Vision said in a statement it appeared tens of thousands of Afghans were affected. Some Badghis residents were calling it the worst storm in 20 years, it said.
Iran has also been flooded by torrential rains, overwhelming emergency services in some areas.
(Reporting by Storay Karimy in HERAT and Orooj Hakimi in KABUL; Writing by Rod Nickel; Editing by Paul Tait)