15 casualties reported and ongoing rescue operations following snow storm in Afghanistan

A severe weather crisis has gripped Afghanistan with heavy snowfall over the past few days leading to the deaths of at least 15 individuals. The extreme weather conditions have not only affected the human population but have also resulted in significant loss of livestock, with close to ten thousand animals perishing in the provinces of Balkh and Faryab.

Residents across affected areas are facing dire conditions, with ongoing heavy snowfall causing widespread anxiety. In response to the escalating situation, the Afghan government has established a committee across various ministries to manage the repercussions, especially focusing on aid for livestock owners. An emergency fund of fifty million Afghanis has been allocated to support those in the hardest-hit provinces, including Balkh, Jawzjan, Badghis, Faryab, and Herat.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock, through spokesperson Misbahuddin Mustaeen, assured the public of the proactive measures taken by committees in all provinces to clear blocked roads, distribute essential food and fodder, and carry out rescue operations for those stranded.

Erfanullah Sharafzoi, representing the Afghan Red Crescent Society, reported that winter service workers have extended assistance in several provinces, reaching those impacted by the snowfalls. The crisis has led to the closure of major transportation arteries, such as the Salang Pass, disrupting access to and from various provinces, including Ghor, Badghis, Ghazni, Herat, and Bamyan, confirmed Mohammad Ashraf Haqshenas of the Ministry of Public Works.

Government response

Esmatullah Muradi, speaking for the Faryab provincial governor, noted the heavy snowfall’s impact on road accessibility, isolating residents in remote areas. The severe weather conditions have also been linked to nine additional deaths and two injuries in the past 48 hours, as stated by Mullah Janan Saeq, a spokesman for the national disaster authority.

A general view of people on a snow-covered ground in Kabul, Afghanistan, January 29, 2023. (credit: REUTERS/ALI KHARA)

Security forces have been active in rescue efforts, saving 42 individuals stranded in snowstorms in Jawzjan province’s Aqcha district. The Afghan meteorological department forecasts continued snowfall, rain, and potential flash floods in most of the country, exacerbating the current crisis.