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Afghanistan avalanches kill at least 165 people
2010-02-13 11:02:06

A heavy blizzard struck the busy road connecting the capital Kabul with the north of the country (File)

The Nation Press -

Salang, AFGHANISTAN  - Afghan soldiers and villagers used home-made tools to dig for bodies and survivors on Wednesday after avalanches killed at least 165 people in a mountain pass.

Rescue workers pulled scores of bodies from the snow after hundreds of people were buried in the treacherous northern Salang Pass in the Hindu Kush in one of the country's worst such disasters, an official said Wednesday.

A heavy blizzard struck the busy road connecting the capital Kabul with the north of the country Monday, triggering avalanches that buried people in vehicles on the strategic pass and injured dozens of travelers.

"According to the latest information from the area, 165 of our countrymen have been killed and 135 have been injured," Suraya Dalil, acting public health minister, told reporters.

Ahmad Shah Waheed, deputy public works minister, said 1,600 people had been rescued but hundreds of vehicles remained trapped in the rugged pass where heavy snow storms blocked the traffic.

"The casualty figure could go higher," he said, adding that many people were believed to be still stranded in their vehicles.

Troops, rescue teams and local villagers carried the injured, elderly and children for miles on their backs.

The Salang Pass is the only major route linking the country's north and south. It was built with Soviet help in the 1950s to bypass central Bamiyan province through the Hindu Kush range.

It provides the shortest route linking the two ends of the mountainous country and as one of the highest mountain highways in the world was hailed as an engineering feat upon its completion.

Up to 16,000 vehicles traverse the 3.5-kilometre (two-mile) pass, located about 3,400 meters (11,000 feet) above sea level, every day.

"That day we cut down the traffic flow (because of the inclement weather) and only a small number of cars, maybe few hundred, passed through," he said, referring to Monday, when the storms hit.

At least 14 rescued survivors had been trapped in a bus, said Abdul Basir Salangi, governor of Parwan province, where the disaster took place.

"It is a miracle these people survived buried under the snow for 37 hours," he said, adding that snow had entered the bus through broken windows.


Source : Thenation press servecis
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