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Kabul (AFP) June 16, 2012
Afghan rescue teams have ended operations to recover the bodies of dozens of people killed in a landslide that followed earthquakes in the north of the country last week, an official said Saturday.
Two shallow tremors less than half an hour apart on Monday unleashed a deluge of rock and earth that smashed into the remote village of Mullah Jan in Baghlan province, burying as many as 71 people according to villagers.
The director of Afghanistan's Natural Disaster Management Authority, Dayem Kakar said emergency teams ended the search after local elders and religious leaders recommended leaving the bodies buried under the slope and naming it the "hill of martyrs".
"We wanted to continue the search for the bodies as the president had ordered, but after a number of mangled bodies and bodies with limbs missing were recovered, the families of the victims and religious leaders strongly urged us to stop," he told a press conference.
Only five bodies had been recovered, he added.
Authorities and aid agencies have provided temporary camps and relief aid, he said, with the government promising to resettle homeless survivors of the quakes.
The first tremor, with a magnitude of 5.4, struck at 9:32 am (0502 GMT) at a depth of 15 kilometres (10 miles) with the epicentre around 160 kilometres south-west of the town of Faizabad.
A more powerful quake, measured at 5.7 magnitude, hit around 25 minutes later in almost exactly the same place, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said.
Northern Afghanistan and Pakistan are frequently hit by earthquakes, especially around the Hindu Kush range, which lies near the collision of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates.
A 7.6-magnitude earthquake in Pakistan in October 2005 killed 74,000 people and displaced 3.5 million.
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