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Snowfall, rains claim 83 lives in AJK, Balochistan

At least 83 people died in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJ&K) and Balochistan in various incidents following heavy snowfall and rains, authorities said.

An official statement issued by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) here on Tuesday said that 55 people died in AJ&K while 21 people in Balochistan province. So far no reports of any loss to property or lives have been received from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan, which also received significant snowfall.

However, a statement issued from the office of AJ&K Prime Minister Secretariat said that in Azad Kashmir the death toll has reached 62 people while scores are injured and rescue and relief activities are under way in the avalanches-hit areas of Neelum and Jehlum Valleys.

According to NDMA, rains in Balochistan have claimed 21 lives and injured 11 others. At least 55 persons died and 12 injured in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

In Neelam valley, 19 people died in an avalanche while 10 others are still missing. According to NDMA, four injured have been rescued while work is currently under way to rescue the remaining people.

Mainly cold and dry weather is expected in most parts of the country today (Wednesday), with very cold in upper parts and north Balochistan, said the authority in its weekly weather outlook. Cloudy weather with light rain and snowfall over hills is expected in Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir.

According to AJ&K Minister for Disaster Management Ahmad Raza Qadari, in Neelum Valley so far 53 people have been injured and 52 houses have been completely destroyed, while 83 houses were partly damaged. He added that death toll and damages to property could go up as still relief and rescue operation is underway in the snowfall affected areas. He said that all the land routes connecting highlands of Neelum and Jhelum Valleys with rest of the Kashmir are blocked and at present relief and rescue operation is being conducted by the army helicopters.

An official of the AJ&K government department of Relief, Disaster and Civil Defense talking to Business Recorder said that heavy snowfall and rains have blocked several roads in high altitude areas of Neelum and Jehlum Valleys.

Giving further details, he said, “Neelum Valley Road, Leepa Valley Road, Chikar-Bagh Road, Bagh-Lasdana Road, Mehmood Galli-Abbaspur Road and Tain Dhalkot Road are closed for traffic and are likely to remain closed for weeks.” In Chitral, the Lowari Top Road is still blocked due to continuous heavy snowfall and traffic going to and from the area has reverted back.

The official advised the people, particularly tourists, to avoid unnecessary travel in snowbound and landslide-prone areas during the prevailing weather conditions.

According to Pakistan Metrological Department, during the past 24 hours Ziarat has received 30 inches snowfall and Kalam received 25 inches of snowfall, while the heaviest snowfall in decades has been recorded in Gilgit.

Major thoroughfares in Balochistan, including Bolan Road, Khanozai Road and Quetta-Chaman Road, have been closed for the time being, the statement said, adding that 23-inch snowfall was recorded at Lowari Approach Road in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Met Office informed that another strong westerly weather system is likely to enter western parts of Balochistan on Friday (night) and likely to grip most parts of the country on Sunday. Under the influence of this weather system, heavy snowfall is also expected in Chitral, Dir, Swat, Shangla, Buner, Mansehra, Abbottabad, Kohistan, Neelam Valley, Bagh and Haveli districts from Sunday to Monday. Murree and Galiayat may also receive heavy snowfall during the period. Possibility of landslides cannot be ruled out in districts of Malakand, Hazara, Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir during the aforementioned period.

Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa has expressed grief over the loss of lives due to intense snowfall in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Balochistan and offered condolence to the bereaved families.

The Army Chief 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 Pakistan Army Urban Search & Rescue teams are evacuating stranded population.

The ISPR said that doctors, paramedics, tents, rations, blankets, and medicines are being provided to the affected families.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020

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