Afghanistan's Interior Ministry said Wednesday that 157 people have been killed in avalanches that blocked a mountain pass north of Kabul.
Ministry spokesman Zemeri Bashary said rescuers have recovered that number of bodies from the Salang Pass, a key road that connects the Afghan capital with the north.
Bashary said 1.5 miles of road have been cleared for emergency ambulances, bulldozers and other road-clearing equipment to get through. About 2,600 people have been rescued so far, he said.
A series of multiple avalanches that began Monday along the 12,700-feet-high pass closed off roads and stranded hundreds of people in snow-bound vehicles.
Karzai orders quick rescue effort
On Tuesday, President Hamid Karzai ordered authorities to make every effort possible to quickly reopen the pass and provide aid to those in need.
In a statement, Karzai ordered the ministries of public works, defense and disaster control to "use all possible means to get the roads unblocked and rescue those trapped and stranded in the heavy snow."
He also expressed condolences to the families of the victims who were killed or injured.
About 100 Afghan soldiers were mobilized to join police and others in the rescue efforts, along with four helicopters, several ambulances and several bulldozers, Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi said.
Military helicopters have been dropping food packages to people stuck on snow-blocked roads.