Torkham landslide leaves three dead

Rescue officials express fear that more people may be trapped inside buried vehicles

Our Correspondent April 18, 2023


At least three people were killed and eight injured in a massive pre-dawn landslide that buried dozens of trucks waiting to cross from Pakistan to Afghanistan, Khyber district administration and rescue officials said on Tuesday.

The landslide struck near the Torkham border post, the busiest and most important transit point for trade between the two countries, in the wee hours of Tuesday as more than 120 trucks were waiting to cross.

The rescuers feared more people could be trapped dead or alive beneath the rubble, and deployed sniffer dogs at the scene as workers cautiously used heavy earth-moving equipment to shift debris.

“We have recovered two bodies and have taken eight injured to hospital,” The Rescue 1122 emergency service said. In an update later it added that one more body was recovered from the rubble, raising the death toll to three.

The district administration said that the landslide occurred at 2 am during a thunder and lightning storm on the Torkham Export Road that straddled through the historical Khyber Pass, closing the border crossing for vehicles.

“Because of the landslide, 20 to 30 cargo vehicles and containers were buried under the debris,” Abdul Nasir, the deputy commissioner of Khyber district said. “Five containers also caught fire and burnt,” he added.

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Nasir said that two of the dead were Afghan citizens. He added that those injured in the incident were being shifted to the hospital in Landi Kotal. “A rescue operation is under way,” he added.

“The casualties and the material losses could be accurately estimated after removal of the debris,” the deputy commissioner said, indicating that the death toll could rise.

Bilal Faizi, the spokesman for the Rescue 1122 said that some survivors had reported getting phone calls from colleagues but “they are not receiving calls any more. “Maybe the mobile battery of those trapped inside is dead, or maybe there is another reason.”

Faizi also confirmed that fires broke out following the landslide, the brunt of which struck about 120 metres from the main border crossing. "The fire is under control now. The rescue operation is ongoing with the help of excavators and other heavy machinery."

The cause of the landslide was not immediately clear, but one official said heavy machinery had been in use for months on an expansion project in the hills surrounding the border post, adding that torrential overnight rain may also have contributed.



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