Dozens killed as heavy snow blankets parts of Afghanistan, Pakistan

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KABUL, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan struggled to dig out from heavy snow on Sunday, with dozens of people reported killed and some major highways closed.

Heavy snow also blanketed the Afghan capital of Kabul, where the government closed its offices.

In northern Afghanistan's Badakhshan province, over the past two days as many as 19 people were killed and 17 injured by avalanches, collapsed roofs and road accidents, said Naweed Frotan, a spokesman for the provincial governor.

The government was working to reach at least 12 districts in Badakhshan that had been completely cut off, he added.

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Massive snowfall in Afghanistan and Pakistan
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Massive snowfall in Afghanistan and Pakistan
An Internally displaced Afghan boy looks on as he stands outside his shelter during a snowfall in Kabul, Afghanistan February 5, 2017. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
TOPSHOT - An Afghan pedestrian makes his way down a street past snow-covered trees in Kabul on February 5, 2017. Avalanches and freezing weather have killed more than 20 people in different areas of Afghanistan, officials said on February 4, as rescuers worked to save scores still trapped under the snow. / AFP / SHAH MARAI (Photo credit should read SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)
An Afghan man removes snow from his shop during a snowfall in Kabul, Afghanistan February 5, 2017. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
An Afghan man removes snow from his shop on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan February 5, 2017.REUTERS/Omar Sobhani
An Afghan man pushes his bicycle on a snowy day in Kabul, Afghanistan February 5, 2017. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani
An Internally displaced Afghan child stands outside her shelter during a snowfall in Kabul, Afghanistan February 5, 2017. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
An Afghan man sells vegetables as he waits for customers on a snowy day in Kabul, Afghanistan February 5, 2017.REUTERS/Omar Sobhani
An Afghan woman walks on a snowy day in Kabul, Afghanistan February 5, 2017.REUTERS/Omar Sobhani
Afghan youth shovel snow from the roof of houses in Kabul, Afghanistan February 5, 2017.REUTERS/Omar Sobhani
Afghan men push a car which was stuck in the snow on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan February 5, 2017.REUTERS/Omar Sobhani
An Afghan girl carries empty water containers during a snowfall in Kabul, Afghanistan February 5, 2017. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
An internally displaced Afghan girl stands at the door of her shelter during a snowfall in Kabul, Afghanistan February 5, 2017. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
Internally displaced Afghan girls warm themselve inside their shelter during a snowfall in Kabul, Afghanistan February 5, 2017. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
An Internally displaced Afghan child cries as he gets stuck in waist-deep snow outside his shelter during a snowfall in Kabul, Afghanistan February 5, 2017. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
Internally displaced Afghan children stand outside their shelter during a snowfall in Kabul, Afghanistan February 5, 2017. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail
Afghan men and woman buy plastic shovels after snowfall in Kabul on February 5, 2017. / AFP / WAKIL KOHSAR (Photo credit should read WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP/Getty Images)
An Afghan man walks along a path under snow-laden trees in Kabul on February 5, 2017. Avalanches and freezing weather have killed more than 20 people in different areas of Afghanistan, officials said on February 4, as rescuers worked to save scores still trapped under the snow. / AFP / SHAH MARAI (Photo credit should read SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)
Afghan men play with snowballs in Kabul on February 5, 2017. Avalanches and freezing weather have killed more than 20 people in different areas of Afghanistan, officials said on February 4, as rescuers worked to save scores still trapped under the snow. / AFP / SHAH MARAI (Photo credit should read SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)
Afghan men make their way down a snow-covered street in Kabul on February 5, 2017. Avalanches and freezing weather have killed more than 20 people in different areas of Afghanistan, officials said on February 4, as rescuers worked to save scores still trapped under the snow. / AFP / SHAH MARAI (Photo credit should read SHAH MARAI/AFP/Getty Images)
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On the other side of the border, at least nine people, including children, were killed by an avalanche in northern Pakistan's Chitral district, with as many as 14 residents believed to still be trapped in collapsed houses, said district official Syed Maghferat Shah.

"So far the rescue workers have recovered nine bodies and efforts are under way to retrieve more," he said.

The avalanche struck a small village of 25 houses, but evacuation operations were delayed by the weather, said Chitral deputy commissioner Shahab Hameed Yousafzai.

"There is no way to rush the injured persons to Chitral hospital because all roads in the valley have been blocked due to heavy snowfall," he said.

In a separate incident in the Chitral region, a government rescue worker was killed when an avalanche struck a check post near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, the commanding officer told Reuters.

The snow wreaked havoc on major roads in Afghanistan, including the Kabul-Kandahar Highway, where police and soldiers had to rescue around 250 cars and buses trapped by the storm, said Jawid Salangi, a spokesman for Ghazni province, where as much as two meters of new snow was reported.

"Some people were carried to local residents' houses and some to military and police checkpoints," he said, noting that officials expected the road to reopen quickly. "Fortunately we arrived on time and there is not a single causality."

The Salang pass north of Kabul was also closed under as much as two and a half meters of snow, according to police general Rajab Salangi, who oversees the area.

"It will remain blocked until the snow is cleared from the main road, facilities are provided and it is safe to travel," he said.

(Reporting by Mirwais Harooni in Kabul. Jibran Ahmad and Gul Hamad Farooqi reported from Pakistan.; Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Nick Macfie and Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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