QUETTA: Severe winter weather has struck parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan, with heavy snowfall, rains and flash floods that left at least 54 people dead, officials said Monday as authorities struggled to clear and reopen highways and evacuate people to safer places.
In Pakistan, where 30 people were reported killed, much of the damage struck southwestern Balochistan province. Imran Zarkon, chief of provincial disaster management, said 14 died there in the past 24 hours, mainly when roofs collapsed amid heavy snowfall. Heavy snowfall had forced closures of many highways, with some parts in the province under six inches of snow. Eleven people were killed in Punjab province, battered by heavy rains, and five others died in the AJK areas, officials with the state-run emergency service said.
In Afghanistan, harsh weather conditions led to the death of at least 24 people, according to the ministry for disaster management.
The ministry’s spokesman, Ahmad Tameem Azimi added that flash floods destroyed 131 residential houses located mostly in the country’s south, west and northern provinces. Hasibullah Shaikhani, a press officer with the disaster management ministry, said most highways in Afghanistan were closed due to heavy snowfall and fears of avalanches. Residents of Kabul, where temperatures dropped to-15 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit), abandoned driving and struggled to get to work onsnow-covered roads. At least 30 people died and several others received injuries in different parts of the country during three days of heavy rain and snowfall till Monday. Rescue teams are active in the affected areas while snow was being removed on the roads for vehicles in different parts of the country.
Meanwhile, traffic system was also suspended in different areas of the Balochistan province. Chief Minister Balochistan Jam Kamal Khan said the provincial government was fully activated to open roads and to ensure provision of all possible help to the people in rain and snow affected areas, saying emergency has also been declared in seven districts which were affected from heavy rain and snowfall. He said: “We would take help of Pakistan Army to rescue people in Nukandi area, who were stuck in flood due to rain.” Provincial government departments including Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA), Communication and Works (C&W) and security forces including Levies Force, police and Frontier Corps (FC) Balochistan personnel are busy to open roads by available machinery for ensuring restoration of traffic in the areas, said an official.
According to reports, six people were killed in Qilla Abdullah after collapsing of roof of a house, eight people died as a roof of mud house caved them in Zhob and three people killed in roof of house failing in Pishin due to heavy accumulation of snow during three days of snow. According to reports, over dozen people were also injured in various road accidents and incidents of roof collapsing in several part of province during rain and snowfalls areas.
According to Met Office, cold and dry weather has forecast for most parts of province including Quetta city for next 24 hours. Minimum temperature was recorded minus -4 in Quetta and minus -5 Centigrade in Kalat. The heavy snowfall was reported to break records of two decades in Quetta by official of Met office. Snowfall was received in respective areas including Kalat, 28 inches, Quetta, 23 inches and 22 inches in Zhob. Rainfalls have been recorded in Barkhan 17 mm, Dalbandin 5.2 mm, Jiwani, 14 mm, Kalat, 29 mm, Khuzdar, 19.7 mm, Lasbella, 8 mm, Panjgur 10 mm, Sibi, 6 mm, Turbat, 3.5 mm and Ormara 40 mm.
According to official sources, several vehicles were stranded in several parts of province including Ziarat, Mastung, Qilla Saifullah, Qilla Abdullah, Harnai and Bolan due to heavy snowfalls where snowfall caused suspending communication system from rest of the areas of country and province. Many houses and crops were damaged due to heavy rain Makran’s Tump, Mand, Zemraan and Buledia and adjoining areas, disconnecting roads from the province and other areas of country. The torrential rains in Turbat and the surrounding areas caused river floods to enter river of Kech, while heavy downpour floods also damaged nearby residential areas. Official sources said special anti-polio campaign which was scheduled to start from Monday was postponed in nine districts of Balochistan due to heavy rain and snowfall. Rescue teams including PDMA, Levies force, police and Frontier Corps are helping people in affected areas where they are being distributed rations including tea and milk for children and other necessary items for people, besides medical aid are underway to provide the injured in respective areas.
The Quetta Metropolitan Corporation’s personnel were busy to remove snow from roads to maintain smooth traffic. However, heavy snowfalls paralysed routine life of public in Quetta and other areas of province.
Meanwhile eight people were killed while 20 others sustained severe wounds as heavy and light rain lashed other parts of country on Monday. Three people lost their lives as roof of a house collapsed in Jamshoro while one minor girl died and seven other received injuries in Sukkur. Separately in Jhang a woman was killed after roof of a house caved in owing to heavy shower. At least three people were killed and four five others in rain related incident in Jampur area of Rajanpur on Monday. The roof of a dilapidated house situated in Dajil, Jampur collapsed due to heavy rain resulting in death of three people on the spot. The bodies and injured were moved to nearby medical facility by the rescue teams. The incident occurred due to continuous rainfall in the area, the rescue sources said.
Meanwhile rain in several cities of Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan on Monday brought the mercury further down and turned the weather cold. Light rain in different parts of Lahore and its adjacent areas during night turned the weather cold. Rain was also reported from other cities of Punjab including Faisalabad, Gujrat, Sialkot, Mandi Bahauddin, Pir Mahal, Jhang, Bhakkar and Mianwali. Karachi also witnessed light rain which turned the weather pleasant. Rain was also reported from other cities of Sindh including Hyderabad, Sukkur, Larkana, Thatta and Ghotki.
Meanwhile, five persons including two women were buried alive and three others injured, in two separate incidents of snow avalanches in the snow-clad Neelam valley of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) during the last 24 hours, official sources said. The AJK President, Sardar Masood Khan, has expressed deep sense of shock and grief over the killing of five persons in the tragic incident in the stormy rains. Official sources said on Monday evening that three persons including two women, belonging to a single family lost their lives after three of the houses collapsed having been hit by a snow avalanche in village Keil, Kudyaan, Baila of the Neelam valley in wee hours of Monday.
In an identical tragedy, two kids including a minor girl were killed and three other school children were injured after they got buried in a horrible snow avalanche in Lawaat Bala area of the snow-clad Neelam valley. Three of the school children were rescued by the locals immediately. They met the mishap while going to their school this morning, the sources said. Various parts of AJK including the upper reaches of the state including Leepa and Neelam vallies are in the grip of heavy snow fall and torrential rains since the mid last night. The stormy weather badly hit the daily life particularly in the snow-clad upper parts of the state including Neelam, Leepa vallies as well as Bagh and Havaili districts particularly. The AJK president directed the local administration besides the state health department for providing every possible relief and assistance to the rain-hit population including those injured in the tragic incidents. In Mirpur, the rains, with wind storm of mild intensity, started at the wee hours Monday which was continuing intermittently till filing of this report this afternoon. The Meteorological department has predicted continual rainfall in plains and snowfall at top mountainous parts of the AJK during next 24 hours.
An aircraft of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) was trapped after landing amid heavy snowfall due to non-availability of de-icing equipment at Quetta airport. The Jeddah-Quetta plane was trapped after the heavy snowfall started when it landed at the airport. The airport administration found no solution to clear the runway as the necessary chemicals and equipment were not available. The PIA spokesperson Abdullah Khan said that the technical staff need de-icing equipment to clear the aircraft and its engine which were not available to the Quetta airport. The provision of the de-icing facility is the responsibility of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to avoid disturbances to the passengers. The spokesperson added that the passengers were provided accommodation at hotel and the administration is also providing the people necessary information. He added that many domestic flights from Quetta airports have been postponed due to the current weather conditions. The flights include PK-325 and 326 Islamabad-Quetta-Islamabad, PK-310 and 311 from Karachi-Quetta-Karachi and PK-8363 from Quetta-Karachi. The flights will be resumed after improvement of weather and the passengers were advised to contact PIA call centres for getting further information, he said.
Snowfall continued in parts of Chitral district including Lowari Tunnel where 23 inch snowfall was recorded till filing of this report. The spokesman of Relief and Settlement Department said on Monday that Chitral Road has been blocked for all kinds of traffic due to land-sliding and snowfall. The official said snowfall continued at Kalash valley where five inch snowfall was reported. The Kalash road was also blocked for vehicular traffic. Darosh-Shishikoh road was also blocked after receiving six inch snowfall. The Chitral-Garam Chashma Road received six inch snowfall and was blocked for traffic. The Chitral-Booni road and internal roads of Chitral city each with five inch snow fall were also blocked. The Relief Department KP has directed the district administration Chitral to clear these roads and mobilise heavy machinery subject to weather conditions and stoppage of snowfall.
The heavy snowfall in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) has broken the 50 years record of snowfall in the region as in Hunza and Nagar an emergency has been declared after continued rain and snowfall for last 36 hours. All government functionaries have been put on alert as areas of Gilgit-Baltistan were in grip of severe cold owing to continued rains and snowfall. In upper areas one foot snowfall was recorded while the low-lying areas have received 10 inches snowfall. All link roads in upper areas of GB and Karakoram Highway were closed after heavy snowfall besides since two days Gilgit Baltistan has no aerial or road link with rest of the country. The chilly conditions have hit alarming level in the area due to roads closure and extreme cold and people have little access to medical facilities.
The GHDMA has advised people to avoid travelling through mountainous routes owing to the threat of landslides. The snowfall has also greatly affected the electricity distribution system in Gilgit Baltistan coupling the hardship of locals. On the other hand youth in civic areas were seemed to be enjoying the snowfall by coming out on roads and throwing snowballs on each other and enjoying hot tea and fish at local hotels.
A landslide near Dasu, Kohistan caused authorities to block the Karakoram Highway for all kinds of traffic on Monday. The Astore Valley Road was also blocked in Dashki. GilgitBaltistan Disaster Management Authority Director General Fareeh Ahmed also advised residents to avoid unnecessary travel. Meanwhile, in Galiyat and Abbottabad life was disrupted due to harsh weather and heavy snowfall, which, according to predictions by the Met Department, will continue. Several feet snow blocked roads leading to and out of the areas and the Galiyat Development Authority advised tourists not to travel to Nathiagali, ChanglaGali, Ayubia and Thandiyani until the roads have cleared up. At least 30 villages, including Namli Mera, ZiaratMasoom, Bakot, Phalkot, Bagan, Ayubia, Jsatar, are completely disconnected from Nathiagali.–Agencies