Asia

Afghanistan's Panjshir valley hit by fresh avalanches

Snow storm in the Paryan district of Panjshir province (28 February 2015) Image copyright EPA
Image caption The snowfall has been the heaviest in Panjshir province for decades

Huge new avalanches have hit Afghanistan's Panjshir Valley, closing off areas that were already difficult to reach, the provincial governor says.

Abdul Rahman Kabiri told the BBC that new avalanches 40m (130ft) high have inundated new areas n the north-eastern province.

President Ashraf Ghani said on Saturday that at least 286 people have died throughout the country in recent days.

The fatalities have all been due to snow or flooding, officials say.

Most of the deaths however are in the Panjshir Valley, where it is feared people remain trapped in the snow.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Many communities in Panjshir province remain cut off
Image copyright AP
Image caption Most roads going into and out of the Panjshir valley remain unusable for vehicles

Some progress in the relief effort has been made - a long stretch of road up the Panjshir Valley has been opened by bulldozers and other machinery.

In places the bodies of victims including women and children have been unearthed.

Officials say the worst-hit place, Paryan, remains unreachable.

The air force is dropping food parcels to seven badly-affected villages and have continued to rescue marooned people not just in Panjshir but in several other provinces where there have been casualties.

Afghanistan has begun three days of national mourning for the victims.

President Ghani has cancelled a trip to Iran because of what he described as a national tragedy.

Avalanches are relatively common in northern Afghanistan, with dozens dying in major incidents in 2010 and 2012.

But Panjshir province is reported not to have seen avalanches on this level for three decades.

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