Tajikistan

Tajikistan: Severe weather leads to avalanches

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ISLAMABAD, 25 February (IRIN) - Heavy winter rains and snowfall over the past week in Tajikistan have blocked roads in many parts of the country, leading to avalanches that have left at least six people dead.
"It's an unfortunate fact of Tajikistan's geography that it's hit by avalanches, mud and landslides that cause damage to property and life," Paul Handley, Humanitarian Affairs Officer with the UN Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told IRIN from the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, on Tuesday.

This mountainous nation of six and a half million is prone to natural disasters with landslides, mud-slides, flash floods, earthquakes and avalanches a common occurrence.

AFP reported that the bodies of the six people killed by an avalanche near the mountain village of Ziddi, about 60 km north of Dushanbe, were discovered over the weekend, a week after the villagers went missing.

According to aid workers, all the roads to the city of Khorugh, capital of the eastern Gorno Badakhshan Province were blocked by heavy snowfall towards the end of last week. Around 200,000 people in the area, which is considered one of the most vulnerable in Tajikistan, face difficult circumstances.

Ismail Omar, an official with the UN World Food Programme, told IRIN that some of the routes leading to Khorugh had been opened on Tuesday morning. "Some of our colleagues who have been trapped in the snow have now made it to Khorugh," he said.

The northern province of Sughd usually remains inaccessible for five months in winter, because snow blocks parts of its road link to Dushanbe, forcing travellers to fly or take a longer land route through neighbouring Uzbekistan.

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