KABUL, Afghanistan -- The Afghan capital has been experiencing its worst cold-snap and heaviest snows in at least 15 years, the National Weather Center said Wednesday.
The cold, combined with about 19.6 inches (50 centimeters) of snow, has caused power blackouts and iced over most of the capital's roads. The bad weather has also caused a sharp increase in demand for wood, the main fuel used by the city's five million or so residents to heat their homes.
Earlier in the week, snowfall closed Kabul airport for two days as well as the Salang Pass, a major route through the Hindu Kush mountains that connects the Afghan capital to the north of the country.
National Weather Center meteorologist Abdul Qadir Qadir said temperatures in Kabul dipped as low as 3 Fahrenheit (minus 16 Celsius), with the lowest previous on record at 1F (-17C) about 15 years ago. The coldest temperature on record for Kabul is 15 F (minus 26 C) and was recorded 40 years ago, he said.
Kabul, located in a narrow valley at a height of 5,900 feet (1,800 meters), has seen little snow in recent years. Afghanistan has been suffering under drought conditions for more than a decade.
"The weather is so cold that it has made life very difficult for people. This winter was not expected, it is very cold," Qadir said.
The cold also caused a spike in the price of gas and wood, forcing residents to resort to electric heaters, which helped overload the city's power grid. Heavy snows also damaged high tension wires coming into the capital, causing blackouts in large swaths parts of Kabul, said Mirwais Alemi, an official with the Kabul electricity department.
"This winter we have had some problems because of the cold weather and the high prices of wood and gas, so people try to use electricity for electric heaters to warm their homes. This causes lots of problems," he said.
About 75 percent of the city has electricity, he said.