KUNDUZ, AFGHANISTAN: Sixty-five people, all but one women and children, died when a ceiling collapsed at a wedding in one of the most remote regions of northern Afghanistan, an official said Thursday.
The accident happened on Wednesday in a village in the Jalga district of Baghlan province, an impoverished and isolated area deep in the Pamir mountains.
“Sixty-five people have been killed. They will be buried today,” Mr Mahmood Haqmal, spokesman for the provincial governor, said.
Among the dead were 52 women, he said. The remainder included 12 children and one man, he said, adding that the newly-weds were unharmed.
A government delegation left for the area to “find out how the accident happened,” Mr Haqmal said, speaking from the provincial capital of Puli Khumri.
Officials said the first floor of a mud-brick and wooden building collapsed at 1:00 pm during the wedding party in Warchi village.
Mr Haqmal said the upper floor of the two-storey building was packed with people when it crashed to the ground, crushing people on the lower floor.
Houses in the area were very old, he said, made of mud bricks covered with wood, and probably unable to bear the weight of so
Weddings are one of the principal forms of entertainment and social interaction in Afghanistan, where men and women typically celebrate in separate quarters — which could explain the high number of female fatalities.
Traditionally, women celebrate indoors while the men party in the open, the two parties not mixing.
According to Islamic tradition, funerals are held as soon as possible after death.
Afghanistan’s remote and undeveloped regions are home to some of the poorest people in the world, lacking basic infrastructure such as roads, making rescue and recovery efforts difficult and time consuming.
In February more than 170 people were killed in avalanches in the Salang pass between Kabul and Baghlan in one of the country’s worst natural disasters. Recovering the bodies took days.
In March, in far northern Badakhshan province, 35 people died in avalanches that buried houses beneath tonnes of snow.
Rescue efforts took weeks as the stricken region was so remote, near the most northern tip of the country bordering Tajikistan, that it took people from the area 13 days to walk to the nearest district centre to get help.
Afghanistan is gripped by an Islamist insurgency, now in its 10th year since a US-led invasion toppled the Taliban’s 1996-2001 regime, that generally impedes development projects.
Fewer than 15 per cent of Afghans have access to electricity, according to the US government’s development arm, USAID, and the vast majority of the country’s estimated 30 million people live in mud houses with no sewage
or running water.