Panjshir, Afghanistan Suffers Onslaught of Avalanches

PANJSHIR, AFGHANISTAN Severe avalanches that began Tuesday in the northeastern Panjshir region of Afghanistan now account for an avalanche-related death toll of over 168 people, as of Thursday evening. A heavy snowstorm, which started early Tuesday, dropped up to one meter of snow in places, reported, despite an otherwise relatively mild and dry winter. The avalanches ranged across four northeastern provinces, but the Panjshir province has reportedly been hit the hardest, states The Huffington Post. According to CNN, the steadily rising death toll is only expected to increase, as personnel begin to reach some of the worst affected areas. Many homes and roads have also been destroyed, resulting in officials declaring a humanitarian emergency.

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The Salang Pass, a mountain pass which connects northern Afghanistan to Kabul. [Photo] Courtesy of BBC News

“We can only speculate on how many people are buried beneath destroyed houses,” Mohammad Aslam Syas, deputy chief of the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority, told USA Today. “It’s possible that if houses have not collapsed beneath the weight of the snow, we can still find people alive.”

The Afghan army deployed 1,000 soldiers from the Kabul Corps to the Panjshir Valley to help in the rescue efforts.

Panjshir is a small, mountain-bound province north of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. Most residents are farmers and shepherds, and the province is also host to a Pakistani refuge camp.

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