Flash floods ripped through villages in a Taliban-controlled area of eastern Afghanistan, destroying dozens of homes and burying people in mud and water. The militant group said 150 people have been killed.

Local Afghan officials said at least 40 people had died on Wednesday night and more than 100 remain missing.

The disaster occurred amid torrential rains in the Kamdesh district of the mountainous eastern province of Nuristan early on Thursday. A massive flash flood swept down a narrow valley and devastated a village that was located on the slopes.

The ill-fated settlement consisted of around a hundred homes and more than a half of them were destroyed, two local officials said.

Those residents, who were spared by the flood have been desperately searching for survivors. So far, 40 bodies have been recovered – either in the water or under the rubble of their own houses, Saadullah Payenda Zoy, who heads the provincial council, told Reuters.

But the death toll is likely to keep rising as more than 100 people are believed to be missing, according to Samiullah Zarbi, the spokesman for the State Ministry of Disaster Management.

A spokesman for Nuristan’s governor, Haafiz Abdul Qayum, gave even higher numbers, saying that at least 60 had been killed.

The officials noted that receiving reliable information from the region – one of the poorest and most remote provinces – has been difficult, due to the Taliban controlling the area. The militants have been fighting the government for decades and swiftly captured new territories in recent weeks in the wake of the withdrawal of US troops from the war-torn country.

The militant presence in Nuristan has prevented the country’s military from assisting in rescue efforts after the flash flood, according to the governor.

The Taliban said in a statement that it was sending its own rescue teams to help the villagers look for survivors, according to the Associated Press. It also promised to guarantee safe access to the Kamdesh district for humanitarian relief agencies.

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