Avalanches, snow-related incidents claim 93 lives in Pakistan

Avalanches, snow-related incidents claim 93 lives in Pakistan

Local residents carry water pots above their heads as they walk back to their homes after heavy snowfall in Khanozai area some 75 kms in northeast of the provincial capital Quetta. AFP photo.

Islamabad, January 15

The death toll in the massive avalanches and snow-related incidents in Pakistan and PoK touched 93, according to media reports on Wednesday as authorities rushed to provide humanitarian aid to those hit by the harsh weather conditions in the country.

Neelum Valley in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir is reported to be the worst hit as avalanches continued to damage hundreds of buildings in the area, killing 66 people, the Dawn newspaper reported.

At least 84 houses and 17 shops have been fully destroyed, while 94 houses and a mosque were partially damaged. Nineteen vehicles have also been damaged in the natural calamity, Neelum Deputy Commissioner Raja Mahmood Shahid was quoted as saying in the report.

Twenty people have been killed in Balochistan and at least seven in Sialkot and other districts of Punjab over the past few days, it said.

The rain-related incidents also led to closure of major roads and highways in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Balochistan.

Officials said the death toll could further go up as some areas in the valley were still inaccessible due to heavy snow, it said, adding that there is a forecast of another spell of snow from Friday.

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said it was bracing for more human and material losses due to inclement weather conditions.

Expressing concern, Prime Minister Imran Khan has asked authorities to immediately provide humanitarian assistance to those affected.

“The severe snowfalls and landslides 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,” Khan tweeted on Tuesday.

According to a report in The Express Tribune, the Met Office has also issued a warning highlighting the risk of closure of inter-city roads due to heavy snow and rain in the districts of Swat, Kohistan, Shangla, Buner, Mansehra, Abbottabad, Murree, Galyat, Neelum, Bagh, Haveli, Rawalakot, Astore, Hunza and Skardu.

Key highways connecting Pakistan and Afghanistan were also blocked due to heavy snow, forcing officials to suspend transportation of essential goods into Afghanistan, the report said.

Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa condoled the lives lost due to the cold wave that has gripped the country and also directed authorities for continued assistance to the civil administration for rescue and relief operations, GeoTV reported.

“Army helicopters are undertaking operations in snow-hit areas of Sharda, Sargan, Bakwal and Taobat,” said the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media wing of Pakistan Army.

ISPR said the Pakistan Army Urban Search and Rescue teams are evacuating stranded population.

Doctors, paramedics, tents, rations, blankets and medicines are being provided to the affected families, it said.

Balochistan was the first to suffer human losses on Sunday due to the extreme weather conditions when a westerly weather system entered the province in the early hours of Saturday.

Hundreds of passengers, including women and children, were stuck in harsh weather on Monday as a massive snowstorm wreaked havoc in different parts of Balochistan. PTI

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