At least 157 people have been killed in a series of avalanches that blocked a mountain pass north of Kabul, trapping hundreds more in their snowbound vehicles, Afghan officials said on Wednesday.
Interior Ministry spokesman Zemeri Bashary, said rescuers have recovered the 157 bodies from the Salang Pass, a key road that connects the Afghan capital with the north, over the past two days.
At a press conference in Kabul, Mr. Bashary said 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) of road have been cleared for ambulances, bulldozers and other road-clearing equipment to get through. About 2,600 people have been rescued so far, he said.
A series of avalanches that began on Monday along the 12,700-feet-high (3,800-meter) pass closed off roads and stranded hundreds of people in snowbound vehicles.
Some of the victims were found frozen to death inside their vehicles, while in other cases, their bodies were strewn along the road, he said.
More than two dozen avalanches hit the pass, blocking 2.1 miles (3.5 kilometers) of road and burying hundreds of vehicles.
Some 400 police, along with 100 local volunteers, have been involved in the frantic effort to dig out survivors in the last 24 hours, he said.
Mr. Bashary said 135 bodies have been taken to Parwan province to the north while the remainder were taken to Baglan in the south.
Search-and-rescue teams reached dozens more of the stranded this morning, he said.
On Tuesday, the Defence Ministry said that Afghan forces had managed to evacuate more than 400 of the injured, with 180 taken by coalition helicopters to Bagram Airbase for medical treatment, said Defence Minister Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak.
Some 500 Afghan soldiers were also mobilized to join the police and others in rescue efforts. The international coalition contributed four Chinook helicopters, while the army sent two choppers, several ambulances and several bulldozers, the Afghan National Army said.