Rescuers shoveled through deep snow Tuesday searching for victims of an avalanche that destroyed a village of 200 people in northeastern Afghanistan, authorities said. Thirty-seven people have been confirmed dead, but authorities fear the death toll will rise.
"It is a mountainous area with so much snow," said Shams Ul Rahman, the deputy governor of Badakhshan province, where the avalanche occurred on Sunday night. "My concern is that many more people were killed."
People from a nearby village were the first to reach the site. They were joined on Tuesday by rescue workers from Darwaz district, who walked for two days to reach the remote area.
About 100 rescuers equipped only with shovels were digging through mounds of snow looking for anyone who might have survived, Rahman said. He said initial reports were that only three women and one child survived the avalanche. They were not in the village of Dasty at the time.
Mohammad Daim Kakar, general director of the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority, said authorities were trying to find two helicopters that can be sent to ferry blankets, food and medicine to the site, which is close to the Tajikistan border.
The U.S. Embassy Kabul expressed condolences to the families of those killed in the avalanche. USAID's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance is planning to send supplies, such as tents and plastic sheeting, through a partner in Tajikistan to assist people in the area.
Deadly avalanches are common in Afghanistan's mountainous north in winter. In February 2010, one killed more than 170 people at the 12,700-foot (3,800-meter) -high Salang Pass, which is the major route through the Hindu Kush mountains that connects the capital to the north.