Avalanche buries village in NE Afghanistan

(CBS/AP) KABUL, Afghanistan - Rescuers shoveled through deep snow Tuesday searching for victims of an avalanche that destroyed a village of 200 people in northeastern Afghanistan, authorities said.

Thirty-seven people have been confirmed dead, but authorities fear the death toll will rise.

"It is a mountainous area with so much snow," said Shams Ul Rahman, the deputy governor of Badakhshan province where the avalanche occurred on Sunday night. "My concern is that many more people were killed."

People from a nearby village were the first to reach the site. They were joined on Tuesday by rescue workers from Darwaz district, who walked for two days to reach the remote area.

About 100 rescuers equipped only with shovels are digging through mounds of snow looking for anyone who might have survived, Rahman said.

He said initial reports were that only three women and one child survived the avalanche, as they were not in the village of Dasty at the time.

Mohammad Daim Kakar, general director of the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority, said authorities were trying to find two helicopters that can be sent to ferry blankets, food and medicine to the site, which is close to the Tajikistan border.

Deadly avalanches are common in Afghanistan's mountainous north in winter.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports the heavy snow and avalanches in Badakhshan are severely hampering efforts to help hundreds of thousands who have been affected by drought in the country's northeast.

In January UN-OCHA reported 43 people died and 65 were injured in an avalanche in Badakhshan.

In February 2010, an avalanche killed more than 170 people at the 12,700-foot-high Salang Pass, which is the major route through the Hindu Kush mountains that connects the capital to the north.

Heavy snow and avalanches often inflict human loss and property damages in winter in Afghanistan.

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