–Over 61 people lose lives, scores stranded as avalanches hit Azad Kashmir
–Balochistan govt says 20 have died due to heavy snowfall, rain in province
–PM, Gen Bajwa direct assistance for the tragedy-stricken people
ISLAMABAD: At least 83 people, mostly from Azad Kashmir, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, have lost their lives and scores have received injuries over the past three days as a result of heavy snowfall and subsequent cold wave that has engulfed the country since last week.
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), in a statement on Tuesday, put the death toll at 70, fearing an increase in the number of deaths due to unfavourable weather conditions. As per reports, rains in Balochistan had claimed 20 lives and injured 11 others while at least 61 deaths and 12 injured had been reported in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
In Neelam valley alone, 59 people died in avalanches while dozens remained missing. NDMA said four injured had been rescued from Neelum while work was currently underway to rescue the remaining people.
Dozen of people reportedly dead in iceberg in #NeelumValley, rescue teams haven’t yet reached potentially to help the people. Only Pak Army is busy rescuing them as well as responding to enemy shelling. Where is the Government? pic.twitter.com/lzmshsdZq4
— Abid khan Atozai (@aatozai1) January 14, 2020
As reports of deaths continue to pour in from across the country, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that he had instructed the NDMA, military and federal ministers to provide assistance to the people of AJK on an emergency footing.
This was followed by a statement by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), which said that the army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, had directed for continued assistance to the civil administration for rescue and relief operations.
According to the ISPR, the army chief expressed grief over the loss of lives due to intense snowfall in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Balochistan. He also offered condolence to the bereaved families.
“Army helicopters are undertaking operations in snow hit areas of Sharda, Sargan, Bakwal and Taobat,” said the ISPR, adding that Pakistan Army Urban Search & Rescue teams are evacuating the stranded population. The ISPR said that doctors, paramedics, tents, rations, blankets, and medicines are being provided to the affected families.
‘BALOCHISTAN WOMEN, CHILDREN AMONG DEAD’:
Balochistan government spokesperson Liaquat Shahwani said 20 people had lost their lives in the province in snowfall-related incidents and added that Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan was personally overseeing the relief work.
“Most of those who died were women and children,” said Mohammad Younus, an official with the provincial disaster management authority, adding that hundreds remained stranded.
It may be noted here that the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) had imposed emergency in seven districts of the province, Ziarat, Harnai, Pishin, Mastung, Qila Abdullah and Kech, following continuous heavy rain and snowfall.
Meanwhile, major thoroughfares in Balochistan, including Bolan Road, Khanozai Road and Quetta-Chaman Road have been closed, the NDMA statement said, adding that the most snowfall recorded in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province was at Lowari Approach Road at a whopping 23 inches.
Key highways connecting Pakistan and Afghanistan were also blocked due to heavy snow, forcing officials to suspend transportation of essential goods into Afghanistan.
On Monday, avalanches, landslides and other rain-related incidents claimed at least 21 lives and left scores of others injured as most parts of the country remained in the grip of a strong westerly weather system that entered Balochistan in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Eleven of the nearly two dozen deaths had been reported in Kashmir, seven in Punjab and three in Balochistan.
Relief, Disaster and Civil Defence Secretary Syed Shahid Mohyiddin Qadri said that heavy snowfall and rains had blocked several arteries in high altitude areas.
“Neelum Valley Road, Leepa Valley Road, Chikar-Bagh Road, Bagh-Lasdana Road, Mehmood Galli-Abbaspur Road and Tain Dhalkot Road were all closed for traffic,” he said.
The official advised people, particularly tourists, to avoid unnecessary travel in snowbound and landslide-prone areas during the prevailing weather conditions.
The Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) has issued warnings of flash floods and heavy snowfall for some districts of Balochistan which may cause the closure of roads. It has also warned of landslides and avalanches in Kashmir, GB, Malakand and Hazara divisions.