Severe winter weather combined with a harsh cold snap has left dozens dead across Afghanistan and Pakistan as officials work to reopen highways and evacuate people cut off by heavy snowfall and flash flooding.
In Afghanistan, the Ministry for Disaster Management said that heavy snowfall and rain that has lashed the country in recent days has left at least 24 dead. Officials are concerned the death toll may climb after a severe cold snap over the weekend brought temperatures down to as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
“We were not expecting such a bad cold wave in the country,” Tamim Azimi, a spokesman for the Natural Disaster Management team, told Reuters. "We have received reports that heavy snowfall has caused casualties, but at the moment we don’t have information on the exact number."
Azimi said Monday that flash floods destroyed 131 residential houses located mostly in the country's south, west and northern provinces.
Heavy snowfall has closed many key roads since New Year's Day, including a key tunnel that connects central Afghanistan with the north of the country and the Kabul-Kandahar highway, Reuters reported.
Hasibullah Shaikhani, a press officer with the disaster management ministry, said most highways have remained shuttered due to the heavy snowfall and fears of avalanches.
Residents of the Afghan capital, Kabul, where temperatures dropped to 5 degrees Fahrenheit on Monday, abandoned driving and struggled to get to work on snow-covered roads.
In neighboring Pakistan, much of the damage was reported in the southwestern Baluchistan province where at least 30 people were killed.
Imran Zarkon, chief of provincial disaster management, told The Associated Press that 14 died there in the past 24 hours, mainly when roofs collapsed amid heavy snowfall. Heavy snowfall also forced closures of many highways, with some parts in the province under 6 inches of snow.
It was not just frozen precipitation creating problems in the country.
Eleven people were killed in eastern Punjab province after the region was battered by heavy rains while five others died in the Pakistani-administered part of Kashmir, officials with the state-run emergency service said.
Among the dead were a woman in the town of Jhang who was killed when the roof of her home caved in during heavy rain, Dunya News reported.
The divided Himalayan region has witnessed heavy snowfall in recent days and power cuts have been reported. Emergency services said they were struggling to provide food and other items to snow-hit areas.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.