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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 February, 2005, 07:54 GMT
Snow paralyses Afghan villages
By Andrew North
BBC News, Kabul

Snowfall in Afghanistan
Many areas are cut off
There is concern in Afghanistan about the condition of thousands of people living in remote villages cut off by weeks of heavy snow.

Officials say the severe winter has killed more than 260 people.

Aid agencies say that the number of Afghans, particularly children, killed could be much higher.

There have been reports of several hundred dying, although it is still impossible to confirm these figures because many areas are inaccessible.

The US military has been helping ferry supplies by helicopter to some of the most isolated areas.

One of these areas in the district of Koh-e-Safi.

The only road to the area has been blocked by snow for two weeks. Food and medicine were running out.

The district chief got a message to the provincial governor who in turn asked the US military to fly in extra supplies.

He said five children had died recently, some from exposure, others after falling ill.

But the heavy snow meant they could not reach a doctor to get treatment.

Legacy of war

This is a common story across Afghanistan, where many people in snowbound villages have succumbed to infections like pneumonia or whooping cough.

This is Afghanistan's harshest winter for at least a decade, officials say.

But there is no doubt the country's war-shattered infrastructure has made things much worse.

The government has had to rely on the US military and foreign relief agencies to get help to many places.

The situation is still unclear in some areas, especially in the west. In some districts, roads are blocked by more than three metres of snow.

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