Afghanistan-Pakistan border crossing landslide toll rises to eight

Rescue workers search for victims on a truck wreck following a landside near Pakistan's Torkham border town on 18 April, 2023AFP

The death toll from a massive landslide earlier this week that buried a fleet of trucks waiting to cross from Pakistan into Afghanistan has risen to eight, officials said Saturday.

Tuesday's pre-dawn landslide hit the Torkham border post, the busiest trade and transit point between the two countries, as more than 100 trucks were waiting to cross.

"So far we have recovered seven dead bodies," said Pakistani rescue services spokesperson Bilal Faizi, adding that "an operation is ongoing to recover an eighth body" from the debris.

A total of 20 trucks were buried in the accident in Pakistan's northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, with rescue services initially reporting two deaths.

The brunt of the slide hit around 120 metres (130 yards) from the main border crossing, causing fires as drivers were cooking meals on gas hobs ahead of daylight fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

"Our workers are close to the eighth dead body, they can see it," said Faizi. "We had removed 60 percent of the debris, but yesterday another landslide occurred in the same area so the rescue operation was delayed."

District deputy commissioner Abdul Nasir Khan confirmed the death toll and said road traffic had resumed on Thursday.

The cause of the landslide was not clear in the immediate aftermath, but one official said Tuesday that heavy machinery had been in use for months on an expansion project in the hills surrounding the border post.

Torrential overnight rain may also have contributed, the official said.