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    Heavy snowfall in Ghazni brings life to a standstill

    GHAZNI CITY (PAN): Heavy snowfall and chilly winds have brought life to a standstill in southern Ghazni province, officials and residents said on Sunday.

    The snowfall starting on Saturday evening was still continuing, resulting in closure of 95 percent of business centres and government offices in Ghazni City, with traffic staying off roads.

    Afghanistan Natural Disasters Management Authority head for Ghazni, Hamidullah Gulistani, said the provincial capital and 17 districts were lashed by heavy snowfall.

    So far 30 centimetres of snowfall has been recorded and people in various areas remained indoors, he said, adding roads connecting the provincial capital with districts remained open and there was no immediate threat of blockade.

    Provincial council chief, Abdul Wali Khanzada, said though the snowfall would result in increased agriculture production, yet its continuation could lead to a blockade of key highways.

    He added the budget set aside for snow-clearing operations was inadequate and the process was not progressing in a transparent way. A contract had been signed with private firms to clear roads of snow ahead of winter.

    A budget amounting to seven million afghanis has been allocated for snow-clearing operations, but the amount seems to be insufficient. Khanzada said, under the contract, private firms have to clear one kilometre of road for 3,000 afghanis.

    Public Works Director Eng. Qurban said he had shifted responsibility for clearing roads to private firms. There has been no problem so far on the part of the firms, and if any problem occurred, their agreement would be scrapped, he continued.

    The ongoing snowfall is feared to put residents of remote areas in trouble as it could lead to the blockade of highways connecting Ghazni City with remote parts of the province.

    Mohammad Amin, a driver, feared if the snowfall continued, the Kabul-Kandahar highway could be blocked. "Snow-clearing work on the highway should have been launched today because a delay may create problems."

    A shopkeeper, Noor Agha, said freezing temperatures had brought most of businesses in the city to a standstill, as people in villages and remote areas were trapped inside their homes.