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 reached remote villages that have been cut off for almost a week.
Najimudin Khan, deputy provincial police chief of Panjshir province, 60 miles from Kabul, said Sunday that as rescue workers dig through the snow, they are uncovering more bodies, including women and children.
Large parts of Afghanistan have been covered in snow as a major storm interrupted an otherwise mild and dry winter.
The heavy snowstorms, which began early Tuesday, hampered rescue efforts. Snowfall from the storm was nearly three feet deep in places, and fallen trees blocked roads in the Panjshir Valley.
Nationwide, the death toll from avalanches and flooding rose to at least 247 people, the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority says.
At least four army helicopters are dropping hot food to cut-off villages, said Khan, the first food for many since the disaster last week.
Afghanistan has suffered through some three decades of war since the Soviet invasion in 1979. But natural disasters such as landslides, floods and avalanches have taken a toll on a country with little infrastructure or development outside of its major cities.
Al Jazeera and Associated Press