Page last updated at 17:01 GMT, Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Afghanistan avalanches kill at least 165 in Salang Pass


The rescue operation in Afghanistan

Rescuers are continuing to dig through snow in Afghanistan to reach hundreds of people trapped in their vehicles by avalanches in the Salang Pass.

Government officials say at least 165 bodies have been recovered from the mountain pass north of Kabul.

Some 2,500 people have been rescued so far, but scores more are feared buried following several days of heavy snow.

More than two dozen avalanches have hit the pass north of Kabul since Monday, blocking 2.1 miles (3.5km) of road.

'Frozen bodies'

The total number of casualties remains unclear.

Interior Ministry spokesman Zemeri Bashary told the AP news agency that rescuers had recovered 166 bodies from the road, which connects the Afghan capital with the north, over the past two days.

Acting health minister Suraya Dalil said hospitals had taken in the bodies of 165 people killed in the avalanches.

February 19-20 2005: At least 250 people killed in avalanches after heavy snowfall in Indian-administered Kashmir
January 16 1995: At least 200 people killed in avalanches in Indian-administered Kashmir triggered by a snow storm and strong winds
September 20 2002: At least 125 people killed when the Kolka glacier collapses on the village of Nijni Karmadon in North Ossetia, Russia
March 24 1996: 56 people killed when avalanche hits main road between Tibet and Sichuan in China
February 23 1999: Avalanche hits Austrian village of Galtur, killing 31 people
Source: News agencies

Officials said crews were working to clear the route near the Salang Tunnel for ambulances, bulldozers and other road-clearing equipment.

Local people are helping Afghan soldiers dig through the snow to vehicles buried or stuck.

"There are many other cars swept away," Gen Mohammad Rajab, the head of the Kabul-Salang highway, told Reuters news agency.

"The death toll may rise as we dig out dozens of other frozen bodies."

Reporters said they could see a number of vehicles, including passenger buses, that had been swept deep into a gorge at the side of the road.

The area is often affected by heavy snow and has been hit by avalanches in the past, the BBC's Martin Patience says from Kabul.

On Tuesday, Afghan interior minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar fended off questions as to why the road had been open in the first place, insisting the situation had appeared manageable until snowstorms unexpectedly struck.

The road through the Salang Pass is the only major route over the Hindu Kush mountains linking southern Afghanistan to the north and Central Asia that remains open throughout the year.

Reaching 3,400m (11,000 ft) at the pass, the road is one of the highest in the world. It was finished in the 1960s with Soviet help.

Meanwhile, an Indian soldier was killed but 13 others were rescued after a second avalanche in two days in Kashmir.

The snow struck an army post on Tuesday in Indian-administered Kashmir, along the Line of Control adjoining Pakistani-administered Kashmir, officials said.

At least 17 Indian soldiers were killed on Monday when an avalanche hit a military training camp in Indian-administered Kashmir, the army said.

Map of Salang Pass

Print Sponsor

Salang Tunnel - Afghanistan's lifeline
10 Feb 10 |  South Asia
Perils of an Afghan bus journey
18 Feb 09 |  South Asia
Eyewitness: Crumbling Afghan lifeline
08 Aug 02 |  South Asia
Re-thinking Afghan reconstruction
29 Sep 07 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Eyewitness: Trapped in the Salang Tunnel
07 Feb 02 |  South Asia

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific