Cold, snow kills 300 people in Afghanistan: authority

Kabul, January 21, 2008 (AFP): More than 320 people and thousands of livestock have been killed in Afghanistan this month in freezing weather and the heaviest snowfalls for 15 years, the country's disaster authority said Monday.

The latest figure from Afghanistan's National Disaster Management Authority is triple that issued by the agency five days ago.

The hardest-hit areas have been in the western province of Herat and its neighbouring provinces of Farah, Badghis and Nimroz -- all remote and mountainous regions near the Iranian border, the authority said.

"In Herat (province) alone we have 137 people who have died, mostly from cold," an agency official, Ahmad Shekib Humraz, told AFP.

Humraz, who said the snow was the heaviest in 15 years, said freezing temperatures had also killed nearly 10,000 livestock this month.

Snowfalls of up to two metres (nearly seven feet) deep had damaged or blocked several roads, cutting off small communities from important centres, Humraz said.

While causing severe damage, the snow and rain may bode well for agriculture in Afghanistan, which has suffered from a severe drought.