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Hundreds remain stranded in snowstorm-hit Afghanistan

Afghan officials fear death toll may rise further as rescuers face hardships in efforts to save people in mountainous areas

Hundreds remain stranded in snowstorm-hit Afghanistan

By Shadi Khan Saif

KABUL, Afghanistan

A total of 119 people have lost their lives across the country due to heavy snow and avalanches in the last three days, the health minister said Monday.

Public Health Minister Ferozuddin Feroz told a meeting in Kabul that up to 89 people had also been injured, according to remarks reported by a local Pashto radio.

According to officials, hundreds of people remain stranded and many more are missing in Afghanistan as rescue services face difficulties in their efforts to save lives in mountainous areas following heavy snow over the weekend.

Up to 50 people have died due to heavy snow and avalanches in the Barg Matal and Mandol districts in eastern Nuristan province. Hafiz Abdul Qayom, the interim governor, told Anadolu Agency the death toll could go higher since many people remain missing.

“We lack the capacity to address the challenge posed by the unprecedented snowfall, we need urgent aid and support,” Qayom said.

President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has already ordered the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority to seek the support of the army and NATO forces in the country in rescue operations.

Also, up to 20 people were confirmed dead Monday in northeastern province of Badakhshan, according to Syed Abdul Humayun Dehqaan, head of the disaster authority’s Badakhshan chapter.

Dehqaan said the mountainous districts of Maimy and Yaran were in particular harshly affected by the snowfall and avalanches. 

Out of the total 34 Afghan provinces, 22 have been declared worst affected by snowstorms. Reports about casualties have also emerged from Sar-i-Pul, Paktika, Logar, Paktya, Khost, Jawzjan and Ghazni provinces, he added.

Meanwhile, flight operations at the Hamid Karzai International Airport resumed Monday following a relative respite from snow in the capital, Kabul. The capital city’s road link with nine provinces in the north via the mountainous Salang Pass has also been restored.

Harsh winter in Afghanistan has also exposed up to a million internally-displaced people to freezing temperatures. Last month, the UN launched its humanitarian response plan for 2017 appealing for $550 million to help about 5.7 million of the most vulnerable people in the war-torn country.

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