Avalanche blankets Afghan village, kills at least 37

KUNDUZ, Afghanistan Tue Mar 6, 2012 8:15am EST

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KUNDUZ, Afghanistan (Reuters) - At least 37 people died and hundreds were still trapped in northern Afghanistan on Tuesday when a snow avalanche covered an entire village near the northern border with Tajikistan, local officials said.

Afghan army helicopters descended on the remote village in the north of Badakhshan province to try rescue families, the latest victims to Afghanistan's worse winter in 30 years.

"The way to the village is closed, it is covered in snow," provincial governor spokesman Abdul Marof Rasikh said of the village of around 300 people, located in the Shikai district.

Though avalanches are fairly common in the mountainous north, Tuesday's deaths were seen as particularly painful for a country that has experienced its worse winter in decades, killing dozens in the capital Kabul and creating further food shortages in one of the world's poorest countries.

Before Tuesday, freezing cold and avalanches had claimed the lives of 60 people in Badakhshan province this winter, officials said.

(Reporting by Mohammad Hamid, writing by Mirwais Harooni, Editing by Amie Ferris-Rotman and Sanjeev Miglani)

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