Search teams digging for bodies buried under avalanches in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir had a glimmer of hope on Wednesday when a 12-year-old girl was found alive after being buried for 18 hours.
A combination of heavy snowfall and bitterly cold temperatures since Sunday has left at least 160 dead in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India. Heavy snowfall has also caused avalanches in the region, burying some small villages.
The worst affected area was in Kashmir's Neelum Valley, where the 21 bodies were pulled out of destroyed homes, Ahmad Raza Qadri, a minister for disaster management, told the Associated Press on Wednesday.
Since Sunday, at least 76 people have been killed in Pakistan-administered Kashmir in weather-related incidents. Another 45 people were killed in Pakistan's southwestern Baluchistan and eastern Punjab provinces as heavy snow caused roofs to collapse.
On Wednesday, rescuers in the Neelum Valley found a 12-year-old girl alive who had been buried for 18 hours after an avalanche engulfed her family's home.
“I thought I would die there,” Samina Bibi told Reuters from the hospital in Muzaffarabad, where she and dozens of other injured people were receiving treatment after being airlifted out of the avalanche area.
Rescuers in Pakistan-administered Kashmir were working against time to reach scores of people believed still to be trapped inside their homes, buried under avalanches triggered by heavy snowfall in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
With many roads still blocked by snow, authorities were using helicopters to evacuate those injured.
Avalanches are common in Kashmir, which is divided between Pakistan and India and claimed by both in its entirety.
At least 10 people were killed this week in avalanches in the Indian part of Kashmir.
The severe weather and its impacts drew a visit from Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who flew to Kashmir to survey avalanche-hit areas.
In Afghanistan, the situation was returning to normal on Wednesday, following days-long heavy snowfall, rains and flash floods that killed 39 people and damaged about 300 homes there since Sunday.
While conditions have improved, winter weather is forecast to impact the region again by the end of the week.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.