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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 February, 2005, 14:37 GMT
Hundreds die in Afghan cold snap
Kabul under a blanket of snow
Heavy snow has caused many homes to collapse
Severe winter weather has claimed more than 260 lives in recent weeks and affected thousands of others across Afghanistan, officials have said.

Many of the dead are said to be children under the age of five.

Aid officials say they are struggling to get food and medical supplies to some of the worst affected areas in central Afghanistan.

Earlier this month, an Afghan airliner crashed into a mountain when it flew into a snowstorm.

All 104 people on board died.

Afghan Public Health Minister Mohammad Amin Fatimie says most of the children who died were suffering from respiratory infections, pneumonia and whooping cough caused by the intense cold.

"We can confirm some 105 people, mainly children, died of diseases throughout the country in the past month," he told the AFP news agency.

More than 160 others are said to have been killed in avalanches, and accidents caused by heavy snowfall.

Aid stuck

The BBC's Andrew North in Kabul says the actual figure of those killed could be higher since many areas are completely cut off.

Food and medical supplies are being sent to many of these areas by air but UN officials say they are finding it difficult to reach many areas in the central Ghor province.

Snowfall in Afghanistan
Many areas are cut off

"Two convoys of 12 trucks with 140 tonnes of food left from Herat on 3 February, but could not reach the districts due to heavy snowfall," the World Food Programme said in a statement.

"One convoy offloaded some 100km (62 miles) from its final destination.... The second convoy is still stuck 125km from Herat."

Air disaster

Earlier this month, a Kam Air aircraft on its way from Herat, lost contact with air traffic controllers on its approach to Kabul airport as it flew into a heavy snowstorm.

It took several days before soldiers, braving deep snow and possible landmines, reached the crash site high up in the mountains.

Most of the 104 people on board the plane were Afghans. The dead also included about 20 foreigners, thought to include nine Turks, six Americans and three Italians.

Of eight crew members, at least four were Russian and two were Afghans.

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