ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (3rd UPDATE) – Avalanches, flooding and harsh winter weather has killed more than 130 people across Pakistan and Afghanistan in recent days, officials said Tuesday, January 14, as authorities struggled to reach people stranded by heavy snowfall.
At least 93 people died and 76 were injured across Pakistan – with several still missing – while a further 39 were killed in Afghanistan, according to officials in both countries.
Forecasts suggest more harsh weather is on the way.
Pakistani Kashmir was the worst-hit area, with 62 people killed and 10 others missing, the State Disaster Management Authority said in a statement.
In the picturesque but conflict-riven Neelum Valley in Kashmir, heavy snowfall triggered several avalanches, including one that killed at least 19 people.
“An avalanche hit their village, 10 people are still missing,” the SDMA said.
Frequent avalanches and landslides occur in Kashmir during the winter, often blocking roads and leaving communities isolated.
Authorities have shuttered schools, while several highways and roads were closed across the country’s northern mountainous areas, according to officials.
“The severe snowfalls and landslides in AJK have caused misery & deaths,” tweeted Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, referring to the part of Kashmir controlled by Islamabad.
To the southeast, in Balochistan province, at least 31 people had been killed in separate weather-related incidents.
“Most of those who died were women and children,” said Mohammad Younus, an official with the provincial disaster management authority, adding that hundreds remained stranded.
Across the border in Afghanistan, more than 300 houses were either destroyed or partially damaged throughout the country, said Ahmad Tamim Azimi a spokesman for the Natural Disaster Management Authority.
“A cold snap, heavy snowfall and rains that started two weeks ago have caused damage,” he said, adding that most casualties were caused after roofs collapsed under thick snow.
Hardest hit were southern Kandahar, Helmand, Zabul and western Herat provinces.
In Herat, 7 people – all members of the same family and including children – died when their roof caved in, Azimi added.
Harsh winters often take a heavy toll in mountainous Afghanistan, and the country remains poor despite billions of dollars in aid from the international community. – Rappler.com