Afghan avalanche death toll rises as rescue teams reach remote villages buried beneath snow

An Afghan provincial official says that the death toll from a massive avalanche in a mountainous valley near the capital Kabul rose to 198 as bulldozers and other machinery began clearing roads and rescue teams were able to reach remote villages that have been cut off for almost a week.

Najimudin Khan, deputy provincial police chief of Panjshir province, 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Kabul said Sunday that as rescue workers dig through the snow, they are uncovering more bodies, including women and children.

At least four army helicopters are dropping hot food to cut-off villages, he says, the first food for many since the disaster last week.

Nationwide, the death toll from avalanches and flooding rose to at least 247 people, the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority says.