Winter avalanches claim at least 69 lives across Kashmir in Pakistan and India
At least 69 people are dead and many more are missing across the disputed territory of Kashmir — 59 in Pakistan and 10 in India — following avalanches during the past 24 hours, government officials said on Tuesday (local time).
- Rescuers had managed to extract more than 50 people from the snow
- At least 53 houses had been completely destroyed by avalanches
- The area is one of the world's most militarily tense frontiers over disputed territory
Two Pakistani officials said many villagers were still stranded by the avalanches in the Neelum Valley area following heavy rain that also triggered landslides.
Many people were reported missing and feared dead as rescue efforts got under way, one of the officials said.
Rescuers had managed to extract more than 50 people from the snow and airlifted them out of the area for treatment.
Authorities also scrambled to provide relief to local people with another spell of heavy snow expected on Friday.
At least 53 houses had been completely destroyed by avalanches in the Pakistani administered region known as Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), officials said.
"I have asked the National Disaster Management Authority, the military and all our federal ministers to immediately provide all humanitarian assistance on an emergency footing to the affected people in AJK," Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted.
Emergency declared in seven districts
The area is one of the world's most militarily tense frontiers, where the neighbouring armies have confronted each other over disputed territory for decades.
Kashmir has been divided between Indian and Pakistan since their independence in 1947.
In 2012, an avalanche engulfed a Pakistani army battalion headquarters near the Indian border, killing at least 124 soldiers and 11 civilians.
Meanwhile, in western Pakistan, heavy snowfall in southwestern Balochistan destroyed several houses in the mountainous region, killing 17 people.
The disaster management authority declared an emergency in seven districts of the mineral-rich province and sought the army's help for relief and rescue operations.
Key highways connecting Pakistan and Afghanistan were blocked due to heavy snow, forcing officials to suspend transportation of essential goods into Afghanistan.
Severe cold and heavy snow led to the death of 39 people in six provinces of Afghanistan in the past two weeks, a spokesman for Afghanistan's Natural Disaster Management Authority in Kabul said.
"We are distributing emergency assistance, including cash to families of the victims," the spokesman said, adding that heavy rain and snow have hampered rescuers.
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