Over 100 people have been killed in Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan region due to several landslides triggered by massive rains, cutting off the region in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir from the remaining country.
The heavy rains which started at the weekend were still battering the northern mountainous regions of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and PoK, triggering several landslides and blocking Pakistan’s vital land-link with China.
The strategic Karakoram Highway (KKH), which links Kashghar in Xinjiang with Gilgit and Abbottabad through the Khunjerab Pass, has been damaged at more than 50 places from Gojal to Besham, leaving hundreds of commuters and over 50 foreign tourists stranded.
The roads leading to Skardu, Astore and Ghizer are also blocked, resulting in shortage of food items and fuel.
Over 70 people have died so far in the Gilgit-Baltistan region and more than 30 in the neighbouring KP province due to rains which lasted for over 48 hours and damaged hydro-power projects that supply electricity to Gilgit town and elsewhere.
According to army’s Frontier Works Organisation’s (FWO) Colonel Amjad Wali, a main bridge on the KKH has also got damaged and efforts are underway to make it fit for travel.
He said some 200 metres of roads in Kohistan in KP have been completely washed away by landslides and over 20 people are still trapped under the rubble.
As many as 25 people, including 13 women, have died in the Kandia area of Kohistan because of a giant boulder falling on a house. Hundreds of houses have been washed away and communication have been knocked out across much of the region.
Reports suggest that the stranded passengers in Kohistan, Diamer, Nagar and Hunza, and over a dozen foreign tourists in scenic Nelum valley, have not been able to get food as shops have run out of supplies.
Many passengers are crossing over huge boulders and mud on foot, risking their lives to reach their destinations.
“I am stuck in Hunza as roads are blocked,” said Amin Beg, a resident of Gojal.
“There is no light and also no signs of immediate restoration of roads. Children and women are also among the stranded people,” he told the paper.
“The situation is getting worse with every passing day but authorities and political administration are nowhere to be seen. We are waiting for government to come forward but so far there is a complete silence,” said another local.
Addressing a press conference on Wednesday, the Gilgit- Baltistan Minister for Works Muhammad Iqbal said the floods and landslides have damaged the power houses, causing suspension of power supply.
“The government has sent a request to army for helicopters so that patients and foreigners can be flown out,” he added.