(Al Jazeera) Islamabad, Pakistan – A huge landslide in northwestern Pakistan has killed at least three people, wounded several others and buried nearly two dozen vehicles, according to officials.
The landslide occurred early on Tuesday near Torkham, a key border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Local police officer Saleem Kalachi told Al Jazeera three people have died in the incident so far.
“This is a big landslide and evacuation process will take some time to complete. There are around 20 to 25 vehicles that were buried under the landslide,” he added.
Bilal Faizi, spokesman for the Rescue 1122 service in the province, told Al Jazeera the landslide took place before dawn after rain and thunderstorm were reported in the area.
Faizi said authorities have launched a search operation to look for people trapped under the landslide. He said there could be more than 20 vehicles, including large trucks, under the rubble.
“This is not a small landslide that can be cleaned up quickly. We have more than 60 people working here to remove the rubble. It’s like an entire mountain has collapsed,” he said.
The Torkham crossing was closed for more than a week in February this year due to tensions between Pakistani and Afghanistani authorities following clashes along the border.
Inayat Afridi, a medical officer at a state-run hospital in Landi Kotal, a town nearly 7km (4 miles) from the landslide, told Al Jazeera an Afghan national is among those dead. He added that the hospital received at least four injured people.
“We treated two Pakistanis and two Afghans at the hospital for minor wounds while there is one dead body with us as yet,” he said.
Ziarat Khan, a tailor who runs his shop less than 200 metres from the site of the landslide, said he was working with his colleagues at his shop when he heard a loud noise that sounded like a bomb explosion.
“We have been working almost till dawn for the last few days as Eid holidays are nearby. Around 2am we heard a huge bang which scared us and we ran out of the shop to find out what had happened,” Khan told Al Jazeera.
“There was a long line of trucks and it looked like the whole mountain had collapsed on them. We rushed to try and help those stuck under the rubble but those boulders were very big. We couldn’t do anything with our hands.”
Khan said the local residents helped the rescue officials. “By dawn we managed to pull out four-five people but there is still too much work to be done,” he said.