10 dead, hundreds of houses destroyed in landslide

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… Trump says Putin is a ‘competitor’, not an ‘enemy’***

At least 10 people were killed and hundreds of homes destroyed in a remote area of northeastern Afghanistan after melting snow triggered a landslide, officials said Thursday.

A mountain lake in Panjshir, a province north of Kabul known for its snowcapped peaks, overflowed and sent water and mud cascading over Peshghor village, Omar Mohammadi, spokesman for the disaster management ministry, told AFP.

Jamil Ahmad was lying in bed just before midnight when he said he heard a sound like “jets” flying overhead.

“Somebody shouted ‘Flood!’ and I ran away with my family to higher ground,” Ahmad told AFP by telephone.

“The people started firing (weapons) into the air to warn others about the flood.”

The water and mud had inundated most of the houses in the village, and destroyed a religious school, two mosques and the main market, Ahmad said.

“Three women from my neighbourhood and two labourers who didn’t hear the warning were taken away by the flood,” Ahmad said.

Villagers had been worried about the possibility of landslides after several days of increasingly warm weather, Ahmad said.

Most survivors were staying on higher ground for fear of more, he added.

Photos posted on social media purportedly showed houses and farmland covered in water and mud after the Panjshir River broke its banks.

Villagers using shovels and other tools were desperately searching for survivors in the debris as rescue teams were deployed to the area, Mohammadi said.

“We have deployed everything at hand to help the people,” he said. “Some people are missing.”

Disasters such as avalanches and flash floods often hit in mountainous areas of Afghanistan as snow melts in the spring and summer. It is made worse by deforestation.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who is in Brussels for the NATO summit, said he was “deeply saddened” by the latest natural disaster.

“A number of people have lost their lives” in the landslide, Ghani said in a statement.

He ordered “relevant authorities to provide urgent assistance to the affected people”.

The landslide comes as the country is in the grip of a nearly 17-year war between Afghan security forces and the Taliban.

In the meantime, US President Donald Trump said Thursday that he sees his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin as a “competitor”, not an “enemy”, days before they meet for a high-stakes summit.

“Someone said ‘is he an enemy?’ No, he’s not my enemy. Is he your friend? No, I don’t know him well enough, but the couple of times I’ve gotten to meet him we got on very well.

“But ultimately he’s a competitor. He’s representing Russia, I’m representing the United States,” Trump added. “Hopefully some day he’ll be a friend, I just don’t know.”

Trump said he would be discussing the civil war in Syria, the conflict in Ukraine, as well as allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 US election.

“I will be asking about meddling, your favourite question,” he told reporters during a press conference on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Brussels.

“All I can do is say ‘did you?’ and ‘don’t do it again’. He may deny,” Trump added.

The US president was also asked if he would be prepared to recognise Crimea as part of Russia after it was annexed from Ukraine by Moscow in 2014.

Some news reports and analysts have suggested Trump might be prepared to concede the territory to Putin in exchange for cooperation in Syria.

“What will happen to Crimea from this point on? That I can’t tell you, but I’m not happy about Crimea.”

Trump blamed his predecessor Barack Obama “who allowed it to happen.”

“That was on Barack Obama’s watch, that was not on Trump’s watch. Would I have allowed it to happen? No, I would not.”

He also said that he expected to discuss NATO military exercises near the Russia border in the Baltic Sea, which Moscow considers provocative.

European nations are desperate for the US to maintain its military commitment to continue defending the continent under the NATO military alliance.

“We’ll be talking about it,” Trump said.

AFP