KABUL (AFP) – Avalanches triggered by heavy snowfalls have killed at least 28 people in Afghanistan and the death toll is expected to rise, officials said on Wednesday.
Most of the victims were in Panjshir province north of Kabul, where two days of heavy snow have blocked main roads, making it difficult for rescue workers to reach the affected villages.
Deadly avalanches are common in Afghanistan’s high mountainous areas in winter. One in the remote far northeast in 2012 left 145 people missing, presumed dead.
“I can confirm that 22 people have been killed in the avalanches in Panjshir province, the toll may rise as our teams are still gathering information,” said Mohammad Aslam Sayas, the deputy head of Afghanistan’s Disaster Management Authority.
Sayas said another six had perished in the central province of Bamiyan and the western province of Baghdis.
The Panjshir provincial governor Abdul Rahman Kabiri gave a higher death toll, saying 31 bodies had been recovered by locals and government workers digging by hand.
“We have gathered 300 people to help with the rescue, but we don’t have the equipment we need and people are using shovels and their bare hands to reach the trapped people,” he said.
Some 15 people were pulled from the snow suffering frostbite and other injuries, the governor said.
Afghanistan has had a largely mild and dry winter, but large parts of the north experienced heavy snowfalls over the last 48 hours.
Parts of the capital Kabul were hit by power cuts on Tuesday and Wednesday after snowstorms and avalanches damaged power cables in the Salang Pass, which links the city to the country’s north.
The pass remained closed to traffic on Wednesday.