Languages
Page last updated at 16:52 GMT, Thursday, 11 February 2010

Hope fades for Afghanistan avalanche victims

Overturned coach on the Salang Pass
The pass remains littered with abandoned vehicles

Officials in Afghanistan say that they do not expect to find more survivors of avalanches which have killed at least 169 people in the country's north-east.

Sniffer dogs and satellite imagery have pinpointed more vehicles buried deep in the deep mountain gorge where the avalanches happened, officials say.

But fresh snowfall and darkened skies brought a halt to rescue efforts in the Salang Pass on Thursday.

Officials insist the operation "is not yet finished".

The area has been hit by more than a dozen avalanches since Monday.

Correspondents say that it has been one of the country's worst natural disasters.

Metal detectors

"Today we have taken out three bodies - a woman and two men, bringing to 169 the total number of bodies so far, with 130 injured," Parwan province Public Health Director Mohammad Qasim Sayedi told the AFP news agency.

Map of Salang Pass

Scores of vehicles which could contain more bodies remain buried beneath massive snow floes, the interior ministry said.

"We're not clear yet on how many cars are still under the snow, but police have been working on recovery since yesterday [Wednesday] and are hoping to bring the operation to an end soon," ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary told AFP.

Defence ministry official Ahmad Zia Aftali said that the government now planned to ask the international coalition for additional equipment, including metal detectors, to aid the search. He said they did not expect to find anyone still alive.

The ferocity of the avalanches was so great that windows of cars and buses were smashed while some tumbled into the valley below, officials say.

DEADLY 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

Many of the dead were killed as their vehicles plunged down the mountainsides, while others perished in the freezing conditions.

Rescuers are using bulldozers, pick axes and shovels in the search for survivors.

The highway that winds through the mountainside remains littered with abandoned or snow-packed cars.

Officials say that although the road has now been cleared, it remains closed to the public to allow for emergency efforts.

About 3,000 people have been rescued so far.

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

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.



Print Sponsor


SEE ALSO
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

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



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

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific