Death toll in avalanche-related incidents in Pakistan rises to 111: Reports

Pakistan-occupied Kashmir's (PoK) Neelum valley was worst hit as avalanches continued to damage hundreds of building in the area, killing 73 people, while 31 people died in Balochistan.

Published: 15th January 2020 06:53 PM  |   Last Updated: 15th January 2020 06:53 PM   |  A+A-

avalanche

For representational purposes (Photo | PTI)

By PTI

ISLAMABAD: The death toll in the massive avalanches and snow-related incidents in Pakistan and PoK rose to 111 on Wednesday as authorities deployed the Army to step up rescue efforts and to provide humanitarian aid to those hit by the harsh weather conditions in the country.

Pakistan-occupied Kashmir's (PoK) Neelum valley was worst hit as avalanches continued to damage hundreds of building in the area, killing 73 people, while 31 people died in Balochistan and at least 7 in Sialkot and other districts of Punjab over the past few days, Geo News reported.

According to preliminary assessments, 52 houses have been destroyed and 82 damaged in the Neelum Valley region, Neelum Deputy Commissioner Raja Mahmood Shahid was quoted as saying in the report.

The Provincial Disaster Management Authority in Balochistan said that at least 31 people have been killed in weather-related incidents, the Express Tribune reported.

The Pakistani military has mobilised its troops and helicopters to help civil authorities evacuate stranded people, clear clogged roadways and airdrop relief items in the remote valleys ahead of a fresh spell of heavy snow expected on Friday, the paper reported.

The rain-related incidents also led to closure of major roads and highways in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Balochistan.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, who expressed concern on Tuesday over the incident, visited the Combined Military Hospital in Muzaffarabad on Wednesday and met those injured in the avalanche, the state-run Pakistan Television (PTV) reported.

Khan during his visit received a briefing from the PoK's chief secretary Mathar Niaz Rana regarding the damages incurred due to snowfall and avalanches in the region as well as the relief efforts undertaken, the Dawn reported.

According to a report by Radio Pakistan, the Pakistan Army, in collaboration with civil administration, is engaged in the rescue and relief efforts in Neelum Valley.

The Met Office has issued a warning highlighting the risk of closure of inter-city roads due to heavy snowfall and rains in the districts of Swat, Kohistan, Shangla, Buner, Mansehra, Abbottabad, Murree, Galyat, Neelum, Bagh, Haveli, Rawalakot, Astore, Hunza and Skardu.

Key highways connecting Pakistan and Afghanistan were also blocked due to heavy snow, forcing officials to suspend transportation of essential goods into Afghanistan, the Express Tribune reported.

Pakistan's Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa condoled the lives lost due to the cold wave that has gripped the country and also directed authorities for continued assistance to the civil administration for rescue and relief operations, GeoTV reported.

"Army helicopters are undertaking operations in snow hit areas of Sharda, Sargan, Bakwal and Taobat," said the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media wing of Pakistan Army.

ISPR said that the Pakistan Army Urban Search & Rescue teams are evacuating stranded people.

Doctors, paramedics, tents, rations, blankets, and medicines are being provided to the affected families, it said.

Balochistan was the first to suffer human losses on Sunday due to the extreme weather conditions when a westerly weather system hit the province on Saturday morning.

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