145 now presumed dead in Afghan avalanche

Staff Report

2012-03-12

KABUL – At least 145 people are missing and "presumed dead" after an avalanche hit a remote village in Afghanistan's northeastern Badakhshan Province last week, the UN said March 11, according to Agence France Presse (AFP).

Earlier, the Afghan government had estimated the death toll in Shekay District at 56.

Rescue teams have so far been unable to reach the disaster-hit areas.

"Access to Dispay village is possible only by road from neighbouring Tajikistan, but it has been severely hampered by snow-blocked roads," the UN Office of the Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan said in a statement. "Helicopter access is not possible, as there is a high risk of triggering further avalanches.”

Police and residents of nearby villages were trying to dig out possible survivors, Zabiullah Atiq, chairman of the Badakhshan provincial council, told AFP.

"Rising temperatures this week and snow predicted for next week ... puts the region at high risk of further avalanches," said Marco Boasso, the International Organisation for Migration’s chief of mission and special envoy to Afghanistan. "When the snow begins to melt, there will be floods. We are on standby to respond to any further incidents."

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