From: Reuters
Published February 6, 2008 08:53 AM

Frozen Tajikistan appeals for aid in winter crisis

DUSHANBE (Reuters) - Tajikistan, paralyzed by the coldest winter in decades, asked for emergency international aid on Wednesday to help it survive an energy crisis which has left millions of people without power and heating.

The bitter cold -- with temperatures plunging to -20 degrees Celsius (-4 Fahrenheit) across the impoverished nation -- caught the authorities off guard this year, forcing the government to ration electricity, water and gas.

"Over the next few days the government will submit a list of basic emergency items to international organizations and donor countries as well as a plan for their use and allocation," the central bank said in a statement.

"The crisis has had a negative impact on the food supply situation and has put industrial sites in a very difficult situation, which can hamper economic reforms," it said.

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Its infrastructure ruined in a 1990s civil war, Tajikistan has long experienced heating and power shortages during winter months. But this year disruptions were particularly severe, with millions of people struggling to survive without heating.

The government has estimated losses from the cold snap, which started in late 2007, at about $245 million. Tajikistan's current external debt is more than $1 billion, or a third of its gross domestic product.

The unusually cold winter has hit many parts of Central Asia this year. In neighboring Afghanistan, the extreme cold has killed several hundred people and about 40,000 cattle.

No casualties numbers were available for Tajikistan, a mountainous former Soviet state of seven million.

A day earlier, the government met officials from foreign organizations including the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, to discuss the crisis.

(Reporting by Roman Kozhevnikov; Writing by Maria Golovnina; Editing by Jon Boyle)

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