- The Washington Times - Friday, February 15, 2008

HERAT, Afghanistan (AP) — Several men lay side by side in hospital beds, the stubs of their amputated arms and legs wrapped in fresh bandages. They are not victims of war or land mines, but of frostbite.

It’s the coldest this impoverished, war-ravaged nation has been in at least a decade — that’s as far back as Afghanistan’s weather records go — and so far, the harsh weather has been blamed for more than 650 deaths.

The hospital in Herat has taken in more than 90 patients suffering from problems related to the winter weather, many of them shepherds. Several of the amputee patients were tending their sheep and goats when a blizzard shrouded the western province in blinding snow that left them stranded.

“I was surrounded by snow for two days, and I couldn’t find my way back,” said Ahmad Sadiq, 18, whose uncle died in the storm. One of his feet was amputated, and the doctors decided that the other will have to go, too.

“I don’t want to live like this. I can’t walk anymore. It’s better to die than to live like this,” he said.

A spate of warmer weather in recent days hasn’t slowed patient traffic at the hospital.

Afghanistan is largely mountainous, and many people live in remote villages reachable only by foot. It’s one of the poorest countries in the world, and most people live in mud and thatch homes heated by burning wood, coal or dung.

Aid organizations and foreign troops have passed out several tons of clothing, blankets, food and fuel in provinces throughout the country and in remote, mountainous villages.

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