Afghan avalanches kill at least 28

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The Independent Online

Avalanches on a mountain pass north of Kabul have killed at least 28 people, with another 1,500 stranded in their vehicles on snow-blocked roads, Afghan officials said today.

The Afghan defence ministry released a statement saying another 70 people were injured and transported to hospitals as the military and police continued efforts to dig out those trapped in the snow.

The avalanches happened on Monday after heavy snowfall in the Salang Pass which links the Afghan capital with the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

President Hamid Karzai ordered authorities to make every effort possible to quickly reopen the pass and provide aid to those in need.

Mr Karzai ordered the ministries of public works, defence and disaster control to "use all possible means to get the roads unblocked and rescue those trapped and stranded in the heavy snow".

He also expressed condolences to the families of the victims.

About 100 Afghan soldiers were mobilised to join police and others in the rescue efforts, along with four helicopters, several ambulances and several bulldozers, defence ministry spokesman General Mohammad Zahir Azimi said.

"Unfortunately there were more avalanches this morning, which made our work a little difficult, but we are trying to rescue people," he said.

Rescuers worked through the night to save more than 200 people, said General Abdul Rahman Sayedkhail, Parwan's provincial police chief.

"There's still danger from avalanches there so that's why our work is a little slow," gen Rahman said.

Military helicopters were dropping food packages to people stuck on snow-blocked roads, interior ministry spokesman Zemerai Bashary said.

Earlier reports said 300 cars and buses were trapped on the mountain pass.

A series of avalanches has also hit Indian Kashmir in the past two days, killing at least 18 people, including more than a dozen soldiers at a military post.