Avalanches caused by a heavy winter snow killed at least 108 people in northeastern Afghanistan, an emergency official said today, as rescuers clawed through debris with their hands to save those buried beneath. The avalanches buried homes across four northeast provinces, killing those beneath, says Mohammad Aslam Syas, the deputy director of the Afghanistan Natural Disaster Management Authority. The province worst hit appeared to be Panjshir province, about 60 miles northeast of the capital, Kabul, where the avalanches destroyed or damaged around 100 homes, Syas says.
The acting governor of Panjshir, Abdul Rahman Kabiri, says rescuers used their bare hands and shovels in an effort to reach survivors. Rescue teams had been dispatched to the affected areas and casualties were expected to rise, Syas says. Large parts of Afghanistan have been covered in snow as a major storm interrupted an otherwise mild and dry winter. Natural disasters such as landslides, floods, and avalanches have taken a toll on a country with little infrastructure outside of its major cities. A 2012 landslide killed 71 people; Authorities were not able to recover the vast majority of bodies and ended up declaring the site a mass grave. But Kabiri tells the BBC that these are the worst avalanches seen in three decades. (Read more avalanche stories.)