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SUROBI, Afghanistan — With a jet engine roar, a wall of water came crashing down the mountains without warning Saturday morning, sweeping away entire homes and devastating families in this district capital just east of Kabul, local officials said.

The flash flood in Surobi was just one of several that killed upwards of 80 people in central Afghanistan on Saturday, as summer thunderstorms dropped heavy rain in the mountains, local officials said.

In the aftermath, the streets of Surobi were covered in a thick layer of mud, the path of the flood marked by snapped trees, household items, and the odd dead animal, leading down to the swollen brown waters of the Kabul river. Power lines were down and some of the floodwaters had inundated the main highway from Kabul to Jalalabad that runs through Surobi, leaving mud and large stones across the roadway.

Picking through the rubble of his home in his mud-splattered uniform, Hafizullah, a soldier with the Afghan National Army, said his family escaped but that all of his possessions were washed away, just days away from Eid, a time of celebration marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

“Everything is gone, our Eid is ruined,” he said.

Five members of a family were killed in a single home, while four more from that family survived by clinging to a tree as the floodwaters raged around them. Their cousin, Rahim Noor, stood in the ruins of their home Saturday afternoon.

He said his family, like many who lost loved ones to the swift-moving waters, is still searching for three of the bodies.

The only warning was a loud rumble just before the floods came through town, Noor said.

“It was like when a plane takes off,” he said.

Flash floods are relatively common in Afghanistan’s mountainous areas. Thunderstorms often dump large amounts of water, which then cascades into the valleys turning dry river beds into raging torrents and inundating entire villages in a matter of minutes.

Residents in the town credited the Afghan Army with saving perhaps 200 people by bringing in helicopters to help pull survivors to safety. Soldiers were credited with saving nearly two-dozen more flood victims in neighboring Laghman provinces.

A spokesman for the NATO-led military coalition in Afghanistan said the Afghan military did not request their help in the flood relief efforts.

Already Saturday, the survivors like Nek Mohammed, a teacher with 12 children, were contemplating rebuilding in the same flood zone - few can afford to move.

“What else can we do?” he said.

druzin.heath@stripes.comTwitter: @Druzin_Stripes


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