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Afghanistan and Pakistan pay the price for unprecedented snowfalls
Afghanistan and Pakistan have borne the brunt of brutal winter weather over the past few weeks. They have seen flood rainfall and amounts of snow unprecedented, even in this snowy area.
In Afghanistan, at least 239 people died and 214 were wounded between 1 January and 20 February from weather-related events, while over 520 houses were destroyed. This has been happening amid a war that has displaced hundreds of thousands, with the United Nations estimating that more than 9 million Afghans are in need of humanitarian aid, including basic food and housing. About fifty people died between 17 and 20 February, 25 of them shepherds lost in blizzards and eleven when roofs collapsed in heavy rain.
About 6 February, over 100 deaths occurred in what was described as an "unprecedented" snowstorm and resulting avalanches, mostly in the country's northeastern Nuristan province. Two complete villages there were buried under avalanches, while many victims had reportedly frozen to death. The snow storm closed many major highways, including the main Salang Pass, 90km N of Kabul, which was buried under about 2½ metres of snow. Access, even by helicopter, to some areas was not possible so rescues had to be done by survivors. Hundreds of travellers were trapped in cars elsewhere in the country and had to be rescued by police and the army.
Just across the border to the east of Nuristan, in far northern Pakistan, parts of the Chitral Valley received over 1½ metres of snow in a 24 hour period according to the Pakistan Meteorological Department. Twenty or more people died in avalanches in the area. More recently, between 17 and 18 February, eight people died in the Chitral district, one in an avalanche and seven in a landslide in the Lowari Tunnel. The 8½km tunnel is being constructed to connect the rest of Pakistan with Chitral which can be completely isolated in winter. Construction is not complete, but it has been opened temporarily during some winters since 2009/10 when the high level pass is closed. It offers an adventurous driving experience (Amin Yasir, YouTube).
This story expands on an initial report in AWN on 18 February, as more information is now available. Sources: Al Jazeera here and here, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Reliefweb, Reuters.
Recent weather briefs - AFRICA
- Heavy rain in South Africa last week brought widespread flooding to the western, northern and eastern areas of the country, the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) reports. Three people were killed and there was traffic disruption in the North West province.
Recent weather briefs - ASIA
- In Central Asia, Reliefweb reports that 13 people were killed and many more hospitalised by avalanches between 17 and 19 February in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. In Tajikistan, a mountainous country of eight million people mostly above 3,000m above sea level, the avalanches have closed many of the mountain roads.
- Flooding hit the Indonesian capital Jakarta, with over a month's rainfall falling in 24 hours at Kemayoran, just north of the CBD, between 20 and 21 February. Jakarta's average for the month of February is 124mm. The rain overwhelmed Jakarta's inadequate drainage system and the capacity of the thirteen rivers that flow through the city, causing flooding up to 1½ metres deep. Thousands of homes in Jakarta were flooded, schools and businesses closed and traffic in chaos while in Bekasi, 30km E of Jakarta, two people died and floodwaters reached 2m in depth. (Floodlist, Al Jazeera, The Star Online.)
Recent weather briefs - SOUTH AMERICA
- A report for the Chilean Government into their devastating fires last month will be useful to all who take an interest in bushfires in Australia. Marc Castellnou, a specialist of the Civil Protection System team of the European Union and expert in analysis of behavior of forest fires, said there were five factors at work: record high temperatures, water stress in the vegetation, a blocking high pressure system, an accumulation of fuel caused by eight years of drought, and the occurrence of many fires simultaneously across large areas which he says caused a real "storm of fire". The detailed report is on Reliefweb but is in Spanish so you may need to find how your browser manages translation, or use https://translate.google.com.au/ and copy this link into the translate box:
- The scale of the nationwide flooding in Peru at the beginning of February is much larger than thought at the time.
A report from the International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies is summarised on Reliefweb here, and the full report is here. The floods affected 376,562 people and left 46,384 homeless after 4,393 dwellings collapsed, 5,541 were made uninhabitable and 81,263 were damaged. It is interesting to skim through the report and see how the Red Cross/Red Crescent swings into action after a disaster such as this.