At least 14 killed as avalanche hits gold mine in northern Afghanistan: officials

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At least 14 people were killed after an avalanche hit a gold mine in a remote area of northern Afghanistan controlled by the Taliban, officials said on Friday.

Farid Nekfar, who heads the disaster management department of Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province, said efforts were ongoing to recover at least two bodies after the avalanche on Thursday afternoon.

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“We are in contact with the locals and emergency teams. So far 12 dead bodies have been recovered from under the avalanche,” Nekfar told AFP.

“Unfortunately the area is under the control of the insurgents.”

Nek Mohammad Nazari, a spokesman for Badakhshan’s governor, gave a slightly higher toll, saying 15 people had been killed.

Death tolls in remote areas of Afghanistan controlled by militants are notoriously difficult to confirm with access to government officials and aid agencies restricted.

Abdul Rahman, a resident from a nearby district, said he had two family members working at the mine when the avalanche struck, both of whom were killed. He said at least 15 of the 30 miners at the site had been killed.

Disasters such as avalanches and flash floods often hit mountainous areas of Afghanistan when the snow melts in the spring and summer.

Deforestation in the region has also made the area more vulnerable to such natural disasters.

More than 50 percent of Afghanistan is believed to be under the direct control or influence of the Taliban, who often rely on a variety of unregulated industries, including narcotics and mining, to help fund their insurgency.

Read more: Afghanistan peace talks under threat as Taliban gears up for major spring offensive

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