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Spring floods, avalanches affect at least 20,000 in Afghanistan

Days of heavy rain and spring snow melt have swelled the once trickling Kabul river, which breached its embankments early Monday, destroying 170 homes in the capital, the U.N. said, adding that an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 people have been affected by floodwaters.

Flooding and avalanches across the country have killed at least 51 people and destroyed hundreds of homes over the last 11 days following warm weather and heavy downpours across much of Afghanistan, officials said Sunday.

Aid agencies are trying to reach an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 families - approximately 20,000 to 25,000 people - affected by the floods and avalanches, said Aleem Siddique, spokesman for the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.

Reliable figures on the number of victims are hard to come by because most of the affected areas are remote and lack communications and access.

The Kabul river breached its embankments around 2 a.m. Monday (2130 GMT Sunday), but affected families were promptly evacuated and no casualties have been reported, Siddique said.

In Parwan, 350 people were airlifted to safety over the weekend, and the World Food Program is delivering food supplies for about 1,000 families, he said.

Afghan soldiers safely evacuated 350 families from Sayed Khel district in Parwan when swollen rivers forced their evacuation, while another 33 families were given assistance in the Shin Wari district, said Maj. Christopher Belcher, a U.S. military spokesman.

"This shows the dedication of the Afghan security forces to the safety of the people of Afghanistan," Belcher said.

In Bamiyan, 60 homes were reportedly destroyed by an avalanche Sunday night, Siddique said. The area is difficult to access because of flooding, which has reportedly killed about 28, he said.

In Daykundi, about 2,500 people in eight districts have been badly affected by flooding, and "it is anticipated that more flooding is to come as the snow continues to melt," Siddique said.

In Panjshir, avalanches and floods have affected six districts, killing nine people and destroying 40 homes.

Afghanistan has endured about a decade of drought, and Afghans say that this year's spring rains are heavier than they've seen in years.

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