Over 60 people lose lives as avalanches hit Azad Kashmir
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.
The authority said rains in Balochistan had claimed 15 lives and injured 11 others while at least 63 deaths and 12 injured had been reported in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
In Neelam valley alone, 23 people died in an avalanche while 10 others were still missing. NDMA said four injured had been rescued from Neelum while work was currently underway to rescue the remaining people. Many villagers were reportedly still stranded in the avalanche-hit areas of Neelum valley following heavy rains that also triggered landslides.
‘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.