KABUL: More than 250 people have been killed in a series of avalanches triggered by heavy snowfall around Afghanistan this week, provincial authorities said Friday.
The bulk of the deaths have come in Panjshir province, north of Kabul, where at least 186 people were killed, acting provincial governor Abdul Rahman Kabiri told AFP.
Kabiri said president Mohammad Ashraf Ghani was due to inspect and visit the damage to the northern reaches of the valley late on Friday.
“Unfortunately, death toll has risen to 186 people killed in avalanches in Panjshir province,” Kabiri said, warning it was not the final toll.
The avalanches came after days of heavy snow, which destroyed more than 100 homes in the province and blocked main roads, making it difficult for rescue workers to reach the stricken villages.
The death toll was confirmed by Panjshir provincial police chief, Abdul Aziz Ghairat, to AFP.
“The volume of snow is really huge in districts in Panjshir,” Ghairat said, “There are some districts where we do not have any any news from them, the communication lines have cut off due to avalanches.”
Mohammad Aslam Sayas, deputy chief of the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority, said the army was distributing supplies to people in areas of Panjshir still unreachable by road.
“Helicopters are dropping medicines, blankets and other necessary items to remote areas of Panjshir,” Sayas said.
Elsewhere in Afghanistan, 36 died in the remote northeastern province of Badakhshan, five in northern Baghlan, five in Parwan and 12 in Nuristan and Kunar provinces in the east, and five in western Badghis. Six were killed in the central province of Bamiyan, four in Laghman and one in Nangarhar, both in the east — bringing the total toll to at least 260.
Deadly avalanches are common in Afghanistan’s mountainous areas in winter. One in the remote far northeast in 2012 left 145 people missing, presumed dead.
Despite the billions of dollars in aid from the international community after the collapse of the Taliban in 2001, Afghanistan remains among the world’s poorest nations after decades of conflict.
Rescue efforts after disasters such as avalanches and flash floods, which often hit as snows melt in the spring, are frequently hampered by lack of equipment.
Poor infrastructure makes it difficult for rescue teams to reach isolated areas.