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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 February, 2005, 15:54 GMT
Cold kills hundreds in South Asia
A snow covered bus station outside Viltengnar in Indian-administered  Kashmir
Heavy snow has left many people stranded
It is now known that several hundred people have been killed across India, Pakistan and Afghanistan in the region's worst winter in decades.

At least 230 people have been killed and hundreds more are missing after a series of avalanches hit Indian-administered Kashmir.

Hundreds of people have also died after heavy snow and rain hit mountainous areas in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Vast areas are still cut-off as fears grow of food shortages.

Sunshine will make the snow unstable
Maj Gen Raj Mehta,
Indian army

Weather forecasters said that the skies had cleared over Kashmir but officials warned that the warmer temperature could lead to more avalanches.

The army has been helping relief and rescue operations in both Indian-administered Kashmir as well as in Pakistan while the US military and international aid organisations are helping reach supplies to remote areas of Afghanistan.

Across the region:

  • Thousands of travellers remain stranded for the seventh straight day on the main 300km (185 mile) Jammu-Srinagar highway that links the valley of Kashmir with the rest of India

  • Soldiers have dropped supplies to victims in Pakistan's worst-affected North West Frontier Province

  • Pakistani officials say more than 300 people have died in heavy snowfall and rain in the past few weeks

  • At least three areas in Pakistani-administered Kashmir have also been cut off by heavy snow leaving hundreds of thousands of people stranded

  • In Afghanistan officials say hundreds of people have died, many of them children

  • Aid agencies say however the toll could be much higher

In the Indian side of the disputed Himalayan state of Kashmir the bodies of 40 people have been recovered from their homes in the worst hit southern district of Anantnag.

"Sunshine will make the snow unstable, increasing the frequency of avalanches," Maj Gen Raj Mehta, a senior Indian army official told the Associated Press.

He asked people living in high altitude areas to relocate "immediately".

Village 'buried'

"The rescue operation is continuing despite cold winds and teeth-chattering cold," a police official told the AFP news agency.

A senior official in Anantnag district, south of Srinagar the summer capital of Indian administered Kashmir, which have seen 4.5 metres (15 feet) of snow, said some 74 persons had been rescued so far by the army, police and local people.

The Jammu-Srinagar highway is still blocked

One of the rescuers, Ghulam Mohammed Wagay, said the village of Viltengnar had been flattened by the snow.

"Some bodies have been buried, some are lying inside a mosque and others lie scattered on the snow. The entire village ... is devastated.

"We see flattened houses there and frozen bodies," Mr Wagay told AFP by telephone from the village.

The leader of India's ruling Congress party Sonia Gandhi and federal defence minister Pranab Mukherjee have surveyed the affected areas from air.

See the heavy snowfalls in Kashmir

In pictures: South Asia snows
23 Feb 05 |  In Pictures
Snow paralyses Afghan villages
22 Feb 05 |  South Asia
Pakistan storms claim more lives
15 Feb 05 |  South Asia

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