UN says 145 ‘presumed dead’ in Afghan avalanche and warns of severe flooding

March 12, 2012

KABUL, March 10, 2012 (AFP) – At least 145 people are missing and “presumed dead” after an avalanche hit a village in Afghanistan’s northeastern Badakhshan province last week, the United Nations said Saturday.

Afghan officials had earlier Saturday put the death toll from the March 4 series of avalanches in Badakhshan’s Shekay district at 56.

The UN said an avalanche in the area claimed 50 lives and warned of severe flooding over coming weeks due to melting snow.

Afghanistan’s harshest winter in 15 years has claimed scores of lives, with the avalanches taking the toll to more than 90 in Badakhshan alone, according to officials.

“Access to Dispay village is possible only by road from neighbouring Tajikistan but has been severely hampered by snow-blocked roads”, said UN’s Office of the Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan in a statement.

“Helicopter access is not possible as there is a high risk of triggering further avalanches.”

The Geneva-based Agha Khan Foundation, the UN Food Programme and the US embassy have donated food and medicines to the affected families.

“This tragedy is likely to be one of many in the near future. Heavy snows will result not just in avalanches but also, in a few weeks’ time, severe flooding in many parts of the country”, said Humanitarian Coordinator, Michael Keating.

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