Kabul : More than a 100 people have been killed in a series of avalanches triggered by days of heavy snowfall around Afghanistan, including 50 in one village, officials said today, warning the death toll could rise still further.
The avalanches struck after three days of heavy snow, which has destroyed scores of homes and blocked roads mainly in central and northeastern provinces, making it difficult for rescue workers to reach the stricken villages.
The bulk of the deaths however occurred in remote Nuristan province, where at least 50 people were killed in a single village, Mohammad Omar Mohammadi a spokesman for the ministry of natural disaster told AFP.
"Avalanches have buried two entire villages in Bargmatal district, 50 bodies were recovered from one village while rescuers are trying to reach the other village," said the spokesman.
Elsewhere 54 people were killed in northern and central Afghan provinces, where officials said massive avalanches destroyed 168 houses and killed hundreds of cattle.
Bad weather and deep snow had hampered efforts of rescue workers to reach the isolated villages, raising fears the toll could rise sharply, according to officials.
In Badakhshan province also in the northeast of the country, at least 18 people, including three women and two children, were killed when avalanches struck their houses overnight, said provincial spokesman Naweed Frotan.
"Several dozens are still trapped, we are trying to rescue them," he said, adding that many roads were still blocked.
Five people were killed by avalanches in the Balkhab district of Sari Pul province in northern Afghanistan and at least 70 people trapped under the snow were being rescued, said provincial spokesman Zabiullah Amani.
"The roads to Balkhab are still blocked and we are trying to open them," he said.
Freezing weather killed at least two people and over 100 animals in the western province of Badghis.
In Parwan province just north of Kabul, the spokesman for governor Wahid Sediqqi said 16 people died.
The government declared today, a normal working day in Afghanistan, to be a public holiday to deter non-essential travel and ensure schools were closed.
Unusually, snow even fell in the southern province of Kandahar.
Deadly avalanches are common in Afghanistan's mountainous areas in winter and rescue efforts are frequently hampered by lack of equipment.
Last month heavy snowfall and freezing weather killed 27 children, all under the age of five, in Jawzjan province in northern Afghanistan.