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January 15, 2020

Death toll tops 100 as harsh weather batters Pakistan, AJK

Top Story

January 15, 2020

By News Desk

ISLAMABAD: Avalanches, flooding and harsh winter weather has killed more than 100 people across Pakistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) in recent days, officials said on Tuesday, as authorities struggled to reach people stranded by heavy snowfall.

Over 100 people died and 76 were injured across the country—with several still missing, according to officials. Forecasts suggest more harsh weather is on the way.

AJK was the worst-hit area, with 75 people killed and 10 others missing, media reported. In the picturesque Neelum Valley in the AJK, heavy snowfall triggered several avalanches, including one that killed at least 19 people. “An avalanche hit their village, 10 people are still missing,” the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA) said.

Frequent avalanches and landslides occur in Kashmir during the winter, often blocking roads and leaving communities isolated. Authorities have shuttered schools, while several highways and roads were closed across the country’s northern mountainous areas, according to officials.

To the southeast, in Balochistan province, at least 31 people had been killed in separate weather-related incidents. “Most of those who died were women and children,” said Mohammad Younus, an official with the provincial disaster management authority, adding hundreds remained stranded.

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday directed the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), military and federal ministers to immediately provide humanitarian assistance to the people affected by severe snowfall and landslides in the AJK. “The severe snowfalls and landslides in AJK have caused misery & deaths,” he tweeted.

“Forty-nine bodies were removed from collapsed buildings in Muzaffarabad,” Ahmad Raza Qadri, the Khyber Pakhtunkhawa chief of provincial disaster management authority said. “Rescue operation is under way with the help of Pakistan Army,” Qadri said, adding severe weather conditions were hampering rescue operations. He added injured were shifted in Pakistan Army helicopters to nearby hospitals. In Balochistan, hundreds of passengers, including women and children, were stuck on the roads in harsh weather on Monday night as a massive snowstorm wreaked havoc in different parts of the province.

Levies officials said more than 500 passengers were stranded in Kan Mehtarzai area of Killa Saifullah district, where temperatures dipped to as low as -14°C while heavy snowfall and strong winds almost buried cars on the main National Highway.

PDMA Balochistan and the district government had provided cooked food to around 2,500 people along with 800-900 blankets and warms clothes to the people stranded on different highways in the province. Emergency has been declared in seven badly affected districts.

In Gilgit-Baltistan, heavy snowfall has broken 50-year record. An emergency had been declared in Hunza and Nagar after continuing rain and snowfall for the past 36 hours paralysed life in the northern region.

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