SLUG: 2-286161 Afghan Avalanche (L-O)
TITLE=AFGHAN / AVALANCHE (L-O)
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INTRO: Rescue efforts are underway following an avalanche in the mountains of northern Afghanistan. Three-people are reported dead, about 100 others are trapped in the snow, and another 100 people have been rescued by local villagers. From Kabul, V-O-A's Sonja Pace has more on the story.
TEXT: Reports from the remote area are sketchy, but the avalanche occurred Wednesday at the Salang Pass - in the Hindu Kush mountains, about 120-kilometers north of Kabul.
It is believed that the avalanche trapped at least 20 vehicles in the Salang Tunnel that cuts through the mountains. Other vehicles are reported buried in the snow near the tunnel. Rescue teams are said to be making their way to the scene, but are battling snow, high winds and temperatures that fell to as low as minus-40(C) overnight.
Afghanistan has appealed to U-N organizations and international peacekeepers in Kabul for rescue help.
Heavy snowfall has also cut off thousands of people from receiving emergency food supplies in remote regions of the country. The Salang Tunnel, built by the Soviets and damaged in the fight against the Taleban, was re-opened last month. It is a major transport route linking the north of the country to Kabul and is widely used to ferry relief supplies.
The snow is turning out to be a mixed blessing for Afghanistan. The country desperately needed precipitation to break the cycle of drought that has persisted for the past several years. But snowfalls this heavy are also causing greater hardships for a population hard pressed to survive. (SIGNED)
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