Floods threaten a 12th century Afghan gem

It is the world’s second-tallest minaret and is situated on the frontier of Ghor and Herat provinces. (Twitter pic)

HERAT: Deadly floods sweeping Afghanistan have put the celebrated minaret of Jam – one of the country’s most revered cultural, architectural and historical treasures – at risk of collapse, an official warned Saturday.

Torrential rains that started on Thursday have lashed six of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, heaping yet more misery onto impoverished residents, many of whom had already been displaced by flooding over the winter.

The Ministry of Disaster Management and Humanitarian Affairs said the new floods have killed at least 24 people and injured 11 more.

The rainfall has also threatened the minaret of Jam, a more than 800-year-old, 65 metre Islamic religious tower and a Unesco World Heritage Site located in central Ghor province.

“Water has surrounded the minaret. We have hired about 300 locals to help divert the flow of water,” Abdul Hai Khatebi, a spokesman for the governor of Ghor, told AFP.

Images on social media showed fast-moving torrents of brown water churning unhindered against the base of the brick minaret, located in a narrow valley that also is home to important archaeological ruins.

“A delegation is assigned to come to Ghor to take emergency measures to help the people and save the minaret,” Khatebi said.

Unesco did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The minaret is in a remote area that is largely under Taliban control.

It is the world’s second-tallest minaret and is situated on the frontier of Ghor and Herat provinces, at the heart of the Ghorid empire which dominated Afghanistan and parts of India in the 12th-13th centuries.

In 2002, the minaret and its archaeological remains became the first site in Afghanistan to be added to Unesco’s World Heritage List.

Built on an octagonal base, the minaret has a double staircase on the inside and is elaborately decorated. Its date of construction is given as around 1190.

Afghanistan’s rich cultural heritage has faced decades of catastrophic neglect, mismanagement and looting, as well as deliberate destruction at the hands of the Taliban.

Following a long drought, heavy snowfall across large swathes of Afghanistan have fuelled massive flooding this year, with more than 100 people killed in recent months, officials said.