By Cait Flynn
Northern provinces in Afghanistan and Pakistan have been hit with nearly 10 feet of snow in the past week that has killed 106 people and injured scores more on both sides of the border.
The snow closed down highways and airports and spurred avalanches across the mountainous region.
“Avalanches have buried two entire villages,” a representative of Afghanistan’s Ministry of State Natural Disasters said, according to a BBC report.
After one avalanche, 53 died in the province of Nuristan in northeast Afghanistan, according to BBC. The same source reported that there were 13 deaths after an avalanche near the town of Chitral in Pakistan.
The death toll is expected to rise as continued snowfall has blocked access to remote towns, forcing the rescue efforts to rely on helicopters to search for survivors and deliver aid, according to Time magazine.
Hamid Karzai International Airport, the largest in Afghanistan, was forced to shut down after 2 feet of snow accumulated on the runway, according to NPR.
Likewise, snowfall on Kabul-Kandahar highway has stranded upwards of 250 vehicles. Motorists are trapped without food on the highway — at least two motorists froze to death in their cars, BBC reported.
“Most affected are women and children,” said Hafiz Abdul Qayyom, Nuristan Province Governor. “The area is completely blocked because of snow, so it is very difficult for us to send support, but we are trying our best,” according to Al Jazeera.
American intelligence agencies and upwards of 13,000 NATO troops are currently in Afghanistan aiding in a so-called train, advise, assist mission, though it is unclear yet if they will be playing a role in recovery efforts, NPR reported.