More than 130 dead as avalanches and floods hit Pakistan and Afghanistan

Avalanches, flooding and harsh winter weather have killed more than 130 people across Pakistan and and left others stranded by heavy snowfall.

At least 93 people died and 76 were injured across in recent days – with several still missing – while a further 39 were killed in Afghanistan, officials in both countries said on Tuesday.

Forecasts suggest more harsh weather is on the way.

Pakistani was the worst-hit area, with 62 people killed and 10 others missing, the state disaster management authority said in a statement.

Vehicles wait for heavy machinery to clear a snow-choked road in Neelum Valley. Photograph: MD Mughal/AP

In Kashmir’s picturesque but conflict-riven Neelum Valley, heavy snowfall triggered several avalanches, including one that hit a village and killed at least 19 people. “Ten people are still missing,” the disaster authority said.

Frequent avalanches and landslides occur in Kashmir during winter, often blocking roads and leaving communities isolated.

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Authorities have shuttered schools, while several highways and roads were closed across the country’s mountainous northern areas.

“The severe snowfalls and landslides in AJK have caused misery & deaths,” tweeted Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, referring to the part of Kashmir controlled by Islamabad.

To the south-west, in Balochistan province, at least 31 people have been killed in separate weather-related incidents.

“Most of those who died were women and children,” said Mohammad Younus, an official with the provincial disaster management authority, adding that hundreds remained stranded.

Workers remove snow from a hotel roof in Pakistan’s Balochistan province. Photograph: Banaras Khan/AFP via Getty Images

Across the border in Afghanistan, more than 300 houses were either destroyed or partially damaged throughout the country, said Ahmad Tamim Azimi, a spokesman for the natural disaster management authority.

“A cold snap, heavy snowfall and rains that started two weeks ago have caused damage,” he said.

Most casualties were caused after roofs collapsed under thick snow, he added. Hardest hit were southern Kandahar, Helmand, Zabul and western Herat provinces.

In Herat, seven people – all members of the same family and including children – died when their roof caved in, Azimi said.

Harsh winters often take a heavy toll in mountainous Afghanistan, and the country remains poor despite billions of dollars in aid from the international community.

In Indian-administered Kashmir, avalanches triggered by heavy snowfall killed at least 12 people, including six soldiers.

Dal Lake after heavy snowfall. Photograph: Tauseef Mustafa/AFP via Getty Images

Officials said army men and a paramilitary soldier died in two separate avalanches along the dividing the Himalayan territory between India and Pakistan.

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“Five army soldiers and a border security force personnel were killed in the snow avalanches on the Line of Control,” Srinagar-based army spokesperson Colonel Rajesh Kalia told AFP.

Separately, a top official from Kashmir’s civil administration said six people were killed after their house came under a massive snow avalanche in the northern part of the valley, which saw heavy snow in recent days.

In India’s adjacent state of Himachal Pradesh, an avalanche buried an elderly person alive, while three others died in landslides, officials cited by the Press Trust of said.

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Source : theguardian[dot]com