Afghan snowfall: 16 dead in Badakhshan province

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Heavy snow and avalanches in the Afghan province of Badakhshan have killed at least 16 people with many more missing feared dead, officials say.

They say that the big snowfall combined with shortages of equipment have made it almost impossible for rescue teams to reach the worst-affected areas.

At least 72 houses in one village have been buried by an avalanche.

Officials say that landslides have cut off at least 12 districts from the provincial capital of Faizabad.

Provincial Governor Shah Waliullah Adeeb said that 2-3m (7-10ft) of snow has fallen in some areas.

Badakhshan's disaster preparedness director Ihsanullah Amiri told the BBC that blocked roads, combined with a shortage of snow clearing equipment such as bulldozers, meant that people in areas worst affected by the snowfall were trapped and urgently needed food and medical supplies.

Provincial MP Fawzia Koofi accused the government of "failing to help the people of Badakhshan" by not granting the province its annual winter assistance allowance.

"This year, the Department for Natural Disasters failed to pay any money to Badakhshan," she said.

"Everyone knows that it snows in Badakhshan from October onwards. They could have surveyed areas and warned people about landslides - and could also have provided food and medical supplies.''

Hard life

Officials say that they expect heavy casualties in Ishkashim district, where "an entire village of 72 families" has been trapped under snow.

"We don't have any equipment to help people there," a local official in the province said.

The BBC's Bilal Sarwary in Kabul says that Badakhshan is a remote and mountainous province. Most of its districts remain closed for almost half the year because of snow and avalanches.

Residents say that road closures because of the harsh winters mean that life for pregnant women, the elderly and ill children can be especially tough.

Our correspondent says that in some areas people walk for days to get to the nearest clinics.

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