Afghanistan avalanche kills 42 in Badakhshan

A woman in a snow storm in Kabul, Afghanistan (Feb 2012) Many areas of Afghanistan have been experiencing harsh winter conditions

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At least 42 people have been killed and many more are missing in an avalanche in Afghanistan's north-eastern Badakhshan province.

The provincial governor's office said that one village near the Tajikistan border had been completely swept away.

The number of people killed in the village in Shekay district is expected to rise, a spokesman for the governor told the BBC.

Badakhshan is one of the country's poorest and most remote regions.

Parts of it are shut off by heavy snow for at least six months every year.

The BBC's Bilal Sarwary in Kabul says Afghanistan is suffering one of its harshest winters in many years.

Nasir Hemat, director of the Red Crescent in Badakhshan, said rescue teams had reached the remote site.

"There were 190 people living in the village - 39 people have been killed, six injured," he told the BBC.

Correspondents say the rescue effort has been hampered because all roads to and from the village are closed. Many more people in the village are missing or presumed dead.

Mr Hemat said three people had also died in a nearby district.

Officials told the BBC that provincial governor Shah Wali Ullah had been visiting at the time the avalanche hit on Monday night.

He was rescued by helicopter and taken to a remote area on the border with Tajikistan, he said.

Map

About 60 people have been killed by snow in Badakhshan this year and homes and thousands of cattle have been lost.

Up to 4m (13ft) of snow is lying in some areas of the province and roads between the capital, Faizabad, and remote rural areas are impassable.

"It has been a tragedy this year," Mr Hemat said.

Local officials said in January that the winter conditions were at an emergency level and appealed for help.

They repeated their call on Tuesday, because dozens of homes remain at risk from further avalanches.

They said that some food, medicine and blankets had arrived from Tajikistan, but it was not nearly enough.

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