More than 70 people have died in landslides and flash floods triggered by heavy rains that pounded the northern areas of Pakistan over the weekend, officials said on Monday.
Dozens of houses collapsed and power lines went down in many areas, making it more difficult for rescue teams to reach victims. Weather experts described the rains as part of unusual weather patterns in the country.
State-run Radio Pakistan put the death toll in rain-related incidents at 71. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province alone recorded 47 deaths, it reported. Scores were injured across northern Pakistan.
By Monday afternoon, it was feared that the rising waters would reach the plains of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, causing more damage to houses and livestock.
Forecasters predicted the unstable weather would continue till Tuesday. “People in Malakand and Hazara should remain alert as widespread rain is expected there,” said Mushtaq Shah, director of the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) in Peshawar.
In Islamabad, PMD adviser Qamaruz Zaman Chaudhry said such heavy rains at this time of the year were unusual. “These erratic weather conditions can easily be attributed to climate change,” he told the media.
Chaudhry said the government should implement a climate change policy and take other precautionary measures, including putting in place early warning systems and timely evacuation of people from low-lying areas, to avert losses.
“The authorities should be prepared for erratic weather patterns in the future too,” he added.
Most of the casualties were reported in the northern part of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, which has been hit by downpours since Friday.
A total of 141 houses were destroyed and the torrential rain caused serious losses to orchards and standing crops. Footage on television showed flood waters washing away several bridges.
There were reports of landslides in Neelam Valley of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Eight members of a family were killed at Samgam Sharda village when their house collapsed.