Freezing temperatures, avalanches and food shortages caused by the coldest winter in years have killed hundreds of people in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In Indian Kashmir, army and civilian rescuers braved sub-zero temperatures and harsh winds to search for survivors of avalanches and landslides that have claimed 229 lives since Saturday.

Afghan officials say poor parents are feeding opium to their children to help them endure numbing temperatures, hunger and disease that have killed several hundred people. The International Red Cross has appealed for nearly $700,000 to assist thousands of homeless people in the capital, Kabul.

In Pakistan, heavy snowfall and lashing rains have killed at least 533 people at both ends of the country in the past three weeks.