Mazar-i-Sharif (Online): Heavy snowfall and extreme cold weather has killed 27 children , all under the age of five, in a distant district in northern Afghanistan, officials said with fears the toll could rise.

According to Afghan media, roads in Darzaab in northern Jawzjan province were blocked by 50 centimetres (20 inches) due to thick layer of snow, cutting off access for villagers in the area to medical care as temperatures plunged to -10 degrees Celsius (14 Fahrenheit).

The district governor Rahmatullah Hashar told media, “Unfortunately we have 27 children killed due to heavy snowfall and freezing weather .” Authorities said that the deaths had occurred over the last two or three days. All the children were under the age of five. The blocked roads could increase the death toll.

The Jawzjan provincial governor’s spokesman, Reza Ghafoori confirmed the deaths and said aid would be delivered via emergency committees.

Heavy snowfall and avalanches kill scores of people in Afghanistan each winter.

In 2015, avalanches killed some 300 people across the country, the bulk of them in the mountainous province of Panjshir, north of Kabul.

Rescue efforts after disasters such as avalanches and flash floods, which often hit as snows melt in the spring, are frequently hampered by lack of equipment.

Poor infrastructure makes it difficult for rescue teams to reach isolated areas.