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January 15, 2020

Death toll in avalanches rises to over 100

Top Story

 
January 15, 2020

MIRPUR/QUETTA, GILGIT: The tally of those killed in avalanches in different parts of the country rose to over 100 on Tuesday.

In Neelam Valley and the other upper parts of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) over 69 people were killed, with the state government expecting a rise in casualties. The Neelam Valley was particularly hard hit, with many people left cut off from help. While the area is prone to weather disasters, the current toll is one of the deadliest in recent history. The state government has also dispatched utilities for burial of bodies and food items for over 100 affected families with the assistance of Pakistan Army. Relief and rescue operation is in progress in the affected areas. According to the government, 69 people were killed in Neelam valley alone, media reports say. “The AJK government is fully engaged in rescue, relief and rehabilitation process with the assistance of Pakistan Army in the affected areas, especially in the worst calamity-hit Neelam valley in Muzaffarabad division, said AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider Khan while chairing a high level meeting in Muzaffarabad.

At least 56 houses were totally damaged after coming under the snow avalanches. Haider directed the authorities for swift shifting of the homeless people to safer places. The AJK government, he said, was utilising all resources to ensure speedy relief and rehabilitation operation. He directed all the state-run functionaries to ensure their active participation in the relief work for the rehabilitation of affected families in the minimum possible time. The prime minister also directed the SDMA and State Highways department to launch the rescue and relief works by restoring traffic on all snow-clad highways and link roads in the Neelam valley.

The AJK Minister for the Disaster Management Authority, Ahmad Raza Qadri, said a state of emergency had been declared for the affected areas on Tuesday morning. "Rescuers are facing difficulties in reaching the affected villages," he said. Earlier, SP Neelam Valley office said at least 49 persons were killed and over three dozen wounded after scores of houses perished in Sarg, Seiri and Sargan Bagwali villages in the valley where avalanches played havoc. The Muzaffarabad division administration, including DIG Police Muhammad Ilyas and SP Neelam valley Asif Durrani besides the Pak Army jawans and local administration supervised and participated in the rescue operation in the affected areas to recover the missing bodies.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan called off his political engagements for a day today (Wednesday) to visit the affected areas in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. The prime minister also directed the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), the military and federal ministers to carry out rescue operations in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. "The severe snowfalls and landslides in AJK have caused misery & deaths. I have asked the NDMA, the military & all our federal ministers to immediately provide all humanitarian assistance on an emergency footing to the affected people in AJK," PM Imran posted on his Twitter account. The Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa expressed grief over the loss of lives in intense snowfall in Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) and Balochistan, ISPR said in a statement. The army chief offered condolences to the bereaved families and gave directions for continued assistance to the civil administration for rescue and relief operations. “Army helicopters are undertaking operations in snow-hit areas of Sharda, Sargan, Bakwal and Taobat,” said the ISPR, adding that doctors, paramedics, tents, rations, blankets, and medicines were being provided to the affected families.

Meanwhile, roads in various districts of Balochistan, Gilgit Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa stand blocked due to avalanches and landslides. The NDMA spokesperson said snow emergency was declared by the Balochistan government in Quetta, Ziarat, Pishin, Killa Abdullah, Kachhi Mastung and Harnai districts. In various incidents people were stranded on highways due to flooding in Mushkhel Tehsil of Washuk district.

The Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) Balochistan and the district government had requested the Southern Command, Quetta for provision of helicopter for rescue of stranded people and relief activities in Washuk and Khuzdar districts. The PDMA Balochistan and the district government provided cooked food to approximately 2,500 people along with 800-900 blankets and woollies to the people stranded on different highways.

In Quetta, a woman died due to extreme cold, while four children were injured in Quetta. In another mishap, a woman and two children died while three children were injured in Pishin district due to heavy rainfall and snowfall. The maximum deaths occurred in Zhob district where six women died and two men got injured due to heavy rainfall and snowfall, while five women died and two children were injured in Killa Abdullah district. Meanwhile, infrastructure, including a bridge in Kech district also got damaged while Lakhpas-Bolan road, Khanozai Road and Quetta-Chaman road roads were blocked due to the heavy snowfall.

In Gilgit Baltistan no incident of death or property damage was reported. The maximum snowfall reported in Hunza district was 14 inches, Nagar district 12 inches, Skardu district 12 inches, Ghanche district 12 inches, Shigar district 12 inches and Kharmang district 10 inches. The snowfall and landslides at Dashkin, Doyian and Harchu in Astore district caused temporary suspension of traffic.