Afghan officials say over two dozen people have lost their lives due to heavy snowstorms and avalanches in 12 provinces over the past two days.
According to a statement issued by the Afghanistan Natural Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA) on Saturday, at least 28 people have been killed in the freezing weather across the provinces of Faryab, Jawzjan, Sar-e-Pul, Badakhshan, Ghor, Ghazni, Panjshir, Maidan Wardak, Bamiyan, Daikundi, Zabul and Baghlan.
The statement, carried by Afghanistan’s Tolo television news network, added that the snowstorm and avalanches blocked many roads in the affected provinces, hampering the rescue operations to a large extent.
ANDMA further said more than 40 people had died of extreme cold or been buried alive under the avalanches during the past two weeks, adding that a further 43 people had sustained injuries so far this winter.
Aslam Siyas, the deputy head of ANDMA, said the blocked roads had been reopened in the remaining 22 provinces. He added that closed roads in the most affected provinces “will reopen once the weather improves.”
In the northeastern province of Badakhshan, with the highest death toll, at least 18 people, including three women and two children, lost their lives when some avalanches buried their houses overnight, provincial spokesman Naweed Frotan said, adding that “several dozen people are still trapped, we are trying to rescue them.”
Last month, heavy snowfall and freezing cold claimed the lives of 27 children, all under the age of five, in the remote district of Darzab in the northern province of Jawzjan.
Back in 2015, some 300 people lost their lives after they were buried under avalanches across the Asian country, most of them in the eastern mountainous province of Panjshir, north of the capital, Kabul.
Each winter, heavy snowfall and avalanches kill scores of people in Afghanistan, where inadequate emergency equipment does not match the scope of its natural disasters.
Afghanistan has been plagued by instability and militancy for years. Although the US military invasion of Afghanistan ousted the Taliban regime in 2001, it deteriorated the security situation across the country, causing near-daily violence and a constant displacement of its people.
The United Nations estimates that at least 9.3 million Afghans, nearly a third of the population, will require humanitarian assistance in 2017, a 13-percent increase compared to last year, which comes amid growing violence, economic stagnation, and social upheaval in the country.