Death toll in Afghanistan avalanches reaches 285

Afghans walk along on a snow-covered road after an avalanche in Abdullah Khil in Panjshir province on March 1
(Rahmat Gul / Associated Press)

The death toll from a series of avalanches and flash floods across northern Afghanistan has reached 285, officials said Monday.

Most of the fatalities were centered in the northeastern province of Panjshir, where at least 196 people have been killed after a week of heavy snow and avalanches across much of the region.

With the hardest-hit district, Paryan, still unreachable, officials said the casualty count was expected to climb as rescue workers struggle to reach remote villages.

Paryan residents interviewed last week said that at least 87 people were trapped in the snow. Fresh avalanches on Saturday dumped about 130 feet of snow on the mountainous area, likely cutting it off for at least several more days.


After visiting Panjshir last week, President Ashraf Ghani declared three days of national mourning and canceled a visit to Iran so he could help manage the disaster response.

Emanuele Nannini, program coordinator at Emergency, an Italian nongovernment agency that runs a hospital in the province, said 12 people had been transferred to its care.

The blizzards have damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes. The snowfall has also damaged power lines that transmit electricity to the capital, Kabul, where residents have seen power outages for the past week.

Abdul Razique Samadi, chief executive of the Bereshna Group, the nation’s main utility company, said roads blocked by heavy snow and rain have hampered efforts to repair the three main power lines damaged by the weather.

Samadi said the utility, which is operating at less than 60% capacity, has been able to offer at least a few hours of electricity daily to each section of Kabul. The utility’s primary focus, he said, was ensuring that the power supply to hospitals and other public services was not disrupted.

Afghans fear that fresh snow forecast for later in the week could further debilitate hard-hit areas after an otherwise dry winter.

Elsewhere in the country, a blast in Jalalabad, the capital of the eastern province of Nangarhar, left two schoolchildren dead and injured another, according to provincial police officials.

Nangarhar and neighboring Laghman province were also hit by flash floods last week that left at least four people dead and cut off access to Kabul.

Latifi is a special correspondent.