ABI BARIK, Afghanistan - Afghan rescuers and volunteers with shovels and little more than their bare hands dug through mud Saturday after a massive landslide swept through a village the day before, turning it into an earthen tomb holding hundreds of bodies, officials said.
The government and aid groups rushed to bring food, water, and shelter to survivors as the government tried to ascertain how many people were killed in the latest natural disaster to hit a country already reeling from nearly three decades of war.
Figures on the number of people killed and missing in the disaster Friday varied from 255 to 2,700. Fears of another landslide complicated rescue efforts, as houses and residents were buried under yards of mud.
"That will be their cemetery," said Mohammad Karim Khalili, one of the country's two vice presidents, who visited the scene Saturday. "It is not possible to bring out any bodies."
From atop a muddy hill, Begam Nesar pointed to the torrent of earth below that had wiped out much of her village. "Thirteen of my family members are under the mud," she said, including her mother, father, brothers, sisters, and children. She said she had been visiting relatives at a nearby village when the disaster struck.
The United Nations said Friday at least 350 people died, and the provincial governor said as many as 2,000 people were feared missing. On Saturday, the International Organization of Migration said information it gathered indicated 2,700 people were dead or missing.
At least 255 people were confirmed dead, Khalili said. Most of those were people who had rushed to the scene to help after a previous, smaller landslide. When a bigger landslide hit, those people along with roughly 300 houses were wiped out. But because no one knows how many people were in those houses, counting the dead is difficult, Khalili said.
The hill overlooking the village was soaked from recent heavy rains that officials believe triggered the slide.