Afghanistan + 1 more

Death toll over 30 in rain-hit South Asia

By Tahir Ikram

ISLAMABAD, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Nearly 35 people have been killed in South Asia in heavy winter rains and snow which have lashed Pakistan, India and Afghanistan this week, officials said on Tuesday.

About 170 people have been injured.

Twenty-seven have died in Pakistan alone, which has been hit by torrential rain in the southern part of the country.

"Never before in more than 110 years was so much rain recorded in such a short time in Hyderabad," Arif Mahmood, chief meteorologist in the nearby southern port city of Karachi, told Reuters.

Three children were drowned on Monday when they were swept away by flood waters near the southern Afghanistan city of Kandahar.

In western India, areas close to the border with Pakistan were lashed by rains on Tuesday and at least two people were killed and dozens of houses damaged, officials said.

The victims include four people people killed by lightning in Pakistan.

Heavy snowfall caused avalanches that closed Afghanistan's Salang tunnel, the key link between Kabul and the north of the country.

There were no casualties there, but further north, three people died on Monday when their car went off the road in Badakshan province.

"Heavy snowfall over the past 10 days caused the accident," the government-run Anis Daily reported.

An India Meteorological Department official said fishermen had been warned against going to sea and fishing harbours and minor ports had been alerted about the storm.

"The rains and strong winds might continue for the next 24 hours. But it's not very serious," she said.

The Edhi ambulance service said it had rescued about 40 labourers caught in a flash flood some 65 km (40 miles) north of Karachi on Tuesday. "We are also using helicopters to scout the area for people trapped in flooded areas," an ambulance official said.

The rains brought relief to many parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan which were reeling after being hit for more than four years by the worst drought in memory.

Chaudhry Qamar-uz-Zaman, director-general of Pakistan's MET office, told Reuters the rains had soaked drought-hit areas in Pakistan, including Thar desert in Sindh province and Cholistan in Punjab province.

"It will benefit these areas a lot, it will also help the water resources of the country," he said.

Pakistan's agriculture-based economy relies heavily on canal irrigation, rain and underground water, with cotton and textiles alone accounting for one-quarter of gross domestic product.


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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