Avalanches killed at least 15 people and cut off various roads in a rugged province of northeastern Afghanistan, officials reported Tuesday.

Authorities began to evacuate those endangered by the avalanches, which were caused by days of snowfall in impoverished Badakhshan province. The province shares a long border with Tajikistan.

“In total, 15 or 16 people have lost their lives. Authorities have managed to recover the bodies,” said Mohammad Sediq Hosni, the head of Afghanistan’s Disaster Management Department.

All the victims appeared to have been male. Five of them were laborers searching for gems that are one of the province’s natural resources, Hosni said.

Seven people caught by the avalanches were rescued, and there was no immediate report of anyone missing, said Abdul Saboor Nasrati, the police chief for Badakhshan.

Mountainous Afghanistan is prone to avalanches and other natural disasters, including earthquakes and drought.

The worst avalanche disaster struck two years ago at the Salang Pass, a section of high-altitude road through the Hindu Kush mountains along a route that links the Kabul region with northern Afghanistan and Central Asia. A series of avalanches in February 2010 buried more than two miles of highway, trapping hundreds of vehicles and killing more than 160 people.