- Wednesday, 08 February 2017
Media reports say avalanches in Afghanistan triggered by heavy snowfall across the country killed at least 119 people last week. Wais Ahmad Barmak, State Minister for Disaster Management, said on February 6 that at least 89 people have been injured and 190 homes destroyed by avalanches in 22 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces over the past three days, according to Reuters.
Those figures were expected to rise as rescue teams make their way through snow-blocked roads to afflicted areas. "There is a possibility that some people still could be trapped in some areas and we do not have information yet," he said. Many of the fatalities were in Nuristan province, near the Pakistani border, where two villages were buried in snow.
Barmak's spokesman Omer Mohammadi said rescue teams have so far recovered 48 bodies from those villages and that more than 1,000 hectares of farmland have been destroyed, according to The Associated Press (AP).
Mohammadi said it would take some time to establish a clear picture of the full extent of the damage. "This will take days for us to clean up all roads covered with snow in different provinces," he said.
AP says Afghanistan's government on February 5 declared a public holiday due to the heavy snowfall across the country. The United Nations has offered its assistance.
“I commend the efforts of the Afghan government that has quickly mobilized to respond to the disaster,” said U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Afghanistan Mark Bowden in a statement. “The U.N. system stands ready to fully support the Afghan government in responding.”