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Last Updated: Friday, 11 January 2008, 18:02 GMT
Snow causes many deaths in Asia
By Pam O'Toole
BBC News

Two women in the snow in Kabul
The snow has severely affected normal life
Severe winter weather conditions are continuing to cause casualties and hardship in Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asian countries.

Unusually low temperatures and heavy snow have led to scores of deaths in the region over recent days.

The latest casualties were reported in western Afghanistan, where officials say more than 50 people have now died.

Most of the deaths were in the province of Herat. The heavy snow has caused avalanches in some places.

In neighbouring Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made an unannounced visit to the northern province of Mazandaran to see the problems caused by unprecedented cold weather and gas shortages.

Food shortages

In Afghanistan, officials in Ghoriyan district in Herat province said 45 people had been killed there over the past two days as a result of the snowfalls.

An Afghan nomad southwest of Kabul on Wednesday 9 January 2008 points to his dead animals after they were killed by cold
An Afghan nomad with animals killed by the cold

Officials in neighbouring Ghowr province also blamed avalanches for 13 deaths over recent days.

Extensive road closures in these provinces have led to severe food shortages in some districts.

In Iraq, Baghdad has seen its first snowfall in living memory, as have parts of neighbouring Iran. Many areas in Iran have been suffering from low gas pressure, or even cuts in gas supplies.

'Not predicted'

President Ahmadinejad, on his visit to one of the worst affected provinces in northern Iran, Mazandaran, explained the reasons for gas shortages.

"The first cause of the problems was the unprecedented cold weather whose severity and scope was not predicted. Nearly all the country was affected by conditions of severe cold," the Iranian president said.

"We had a sharp drop in temperature and nearly two-thirds of the country was faced with freezing conditions and heavy snow fall. This was beyond the capacity of our gas distribution networks. It imposed a sudden high demand on the gas network in the country."

The president also blamed a cut in gas exports from Turkmenistan.

Parts of Central Asia are also suffering from energy shortages. In southern Kazakhstan, people say they are struggling to keep warm in unusually low temperatures, ranging from -10C during the day to -25 degrees overnight.

In Uzbekistan, which has been suffering its coldest temperatures for almost four decades, human rights groups reported that a small group of women and children held a demonstration in Samarkand to protest against shortages of gas and electricity supplies to rural areas nearby.

SEE ALSO
Deadly blizzards bring Asia chaos
09 Jan 08 |  South Asia
Dozens killed in Iran blizzards
09 Jan 08 |  Middle East

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