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AFGHANISTAN: Avalanche kills 13 in northeast

Dubai, December 12, 2007 (IRIN): Thirteen people were killed by an avalanche in northeastern Afghanistan on 11 December and a further three are almost certainly also dead, according to the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA).

"Based on information provided by the chief of police in Baharak District [in Badakhshan Province] the bodies of five people have been recovered today and three more people are still under the snow. We fear they are dead," Humayun Paikar from ANDMA told IRIN from Kabul on 12 December.

"Yesterday eight bodies were recovered, so the total likely number of deaths is 16. Four people have been injured and 15 were rescued alive on 11 December," Paikar said.

Last year flash floods and avalanches killed about 400 people, destroyed about 5,000 houses and affected over 45,000 families between December 2006 and May 2007, according to ANDMA statistics.

Afghanistan is prone to various natural disasters. Earthquakes are frequent in the northern parts of the country and often trigger devastating landslides. Flooding and mudslides are common, particularly in the spring when the snow starts melting. Extreme winter conditions and avalanches are also a recurrent feature in mountainous areas that make up about 63 percent of the country, according to The Environment Times, a UN Environment Programme (UNEP) publication.