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Snow, fog, civil war disrupt Afghan quake relief efforts

Protected only by blankets, earthquake survivors shivered in sub-freezing weather near their crumbled homes Wednesday as fresh snowfall disrupted relief efforts to northeast Afghanistan.

"Please help us, we have lost everything," a veiled woman shouted, stumbling down the muddy road from the village of Kezer as aid workers from Doctors Without Borders drove past. A man standing at her side simply wept.One week after a magnitude-6.1 earthquake and subsequent landslides killed more than 4,000 people, snow, fog, mud and civil war continued to frustrate rescue efforts.

The area, including the closest airstrip, was buried under a foot of snow. Aid workers feared survivors would die of exposure.

"The snow has added an enormous disadvantage," said Alexander Faite of the International Committee of the Red Cross. "Most of the people are still trapped in their mountain villages. We worry that they will die if we cannot get them down for help."

As of Wednesday, relief teams had only reached 14 of the 27 villages flattened or damaged by last week's earthquake and the aftershocks that followed. Doctors Without Borders physician Sheila Hall said her agency estimates that more than 4,300 have perished.

Officials in Ghanji, eight miles east of the town of Rustaq, said today that they had pulled 700 bodies from the debris that marks where the village once stood.