28 killed in avalanche

KABUL: Avalanches roared down a mountain pass north of Afghanistan's capital, killing at least 28 people and leaving hundreds more stranded in their vehicles on snow-blocked roads, officials said today.

Another 70 people were injured and transported to hospitals as the military and police continued rescue efforts to dig out those trapped in the snow, an Afghan Defence Ministry statement said. Some 1,500 people were rescued, it said.

The avalanches struck on Monday following heavy snow in the Salang Pass that links the Afghan capital Kabul with the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

Suhrab Ali Safari, acting public works minister, told The Associated Press in a phone interview from Salang a strong snowstorm overnight triggered a major avalanche that covered about 3.5 km of road.

Safari said there was a series of smaller avalanches in the area in recent weeks, but Monday night brought a big snowstorm in which drivers had no visibility beyond two metres.

Soldiers, police and local people were all trying to help in the rescue efforts, he said.