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Dozens Killed As Heavy Snowfall Hits Afghanistan, Pakistan

  • RFE/RL

An internally displaced Afghan child stands outside her shelter during a snowfall in Kabul on February 5.

An internally displaced Afghan child stands outside her shelter during a snowfall in Kabul on February 5.

Parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan are struggling with heavy snow as dozens of people were reported killed and major highways were closed.

More than 100 people have died due to heavy snowfall, rain, avalanches, and severe cold in several regions of Afghanistan over the past three days, an official said on February 5.

There are fears the toll could rise as rescuers begin clearing roads to remote areas.

Hafez Abdul Qayoom, the governor of Nuristan Province, told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that an overnight avalanche had buried parts of the village of Hafsa in Bargematal district, home to some 500 people. Around 50 dead bodies had been retrieved from under the snow in the village.

Omar Mohammadi, a spokesman for the Afghanistan Natural Disaster Management Authority, said rescuers were trying to reach another village in the Bargemata district that had been also buried.

More than 50 people were killed in northern and central Afghan provinces, where officials said massive avalanches destroyed 168 houses and killed hundreds of cattle.

Heavy snow was also reported in the Afghan capital of Kabul, where the government said it had closed its offices.

Naweed Frotan, a spokesman for the provincial governor of Afghanistan's northern Badakhshan Province, said the government was working to reach 12 districts that had been completely cut off.

As many as 19 people were killed and 17 injured by avalanches, collapsed roofs, and road accidents in the province.

Across the border, in northern Pakistan's Chitral district, at least nine people were killed by an avalanche and as many as 14 residents are believed to be trapped in collapsed houses.

Police and soldiers had to rescue around 250 cars and buses trapped by the snowstorm on the Kabul-Kandahar highway, said Jawid Salangi, a spokesman for Ghazni Province, where as much as 2 meters of new snow was reported.

The Salang highway connecting northern and central Afghanistan and crossing high mountains was also closed and will remain blocked until the snow is cleared from the main road, said police general Rajab Salangi, who oversees the area.

The central government in Afghanistan declared a nationwide holiday and Kabul's international airport was closed.

With reporting by Reuters, dpa, and AFP
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