Flash floods wreak havoc in GB, claim 8 lives

By Inayat Amir

Flash floods and landslides have wreaked havoc in Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral claiming eight lives during the last week.

Unprecedented heatwave exacerbated the glacier melt and outburst of lakes, swelling streams and rivers that triggered flash floods and landslides in Ghizer, Hunza, Diamer, Baltistan and Chitral.

Local residents are busy with rescue work at Sherqilla. Photos by Sher Nadir

According to reports On Tuesday, eight people including women and children were killed and several others injured after flash floods hit Sherqilla village of Ghizer District following torrential rain.

Water-laden masses of soil and fragmented rocks rushed down the largest village of the district sweeping away dozens of houses, irrigation canals, link roads, a powerhouse, bridges, standing crops, and thousands of trees.

The local administration has issued an alert as the disaster has created a risk of a shortage of food and other commodities in the affected areas.

Flash floods damaged houses, shops and orchards at Sherqilla, Puniyal. Photo by Sher Nadir Shahi

In Sherqilla, residents and local journalists accused the Ghizer district administration and the Gilgit-Baltistan Disaster Management Authority of laxity saying that even after a lapse of several hours, machinery and rescue teams have not been dispatched to the affected areas.

Had the relevant departments acted in time, precious human lives could have been saved, they said.  

Ghizer Deputy Commissioner Tayyab Sami Khan blamed the disruption of the cellular network for the late response saying communication trouble hampered swift action.   

He said rescue teams had been dispatched to the affected area along with machinery.

On July 5, landslide and flash floods caused massive damage in different areas of Baltistan, especially in the Thuwar, Stak, Ganji, and Turmak areas of Rondu. Dozens of irrigation channels, bridges, crop fields, and hundreds of trees have been swept away.

Mud and debris flow washed away a portion of the newly built strategic Jaglot-Skardu road near Stak Police Station.

The strategic Jaglot-Skardu road that has been blocked by a landslide and heavy boulders caused by heavy rains is being cleared by two persons while the personnel of FWO which is responsible for the maintenance of the highway are sitting as spectators. Photo: Abdur Rahman Bukhari

Several families are reportedly stranded in Ganji after two bridges were washed away.

Floods also damaged roads and bridges in Peshot, Darel.

The GBDMA and administration have directed people to refrain from travelling in landslide-prone areas. Deputy Commissioner of Gilgit the capital city has issued instructions to Rescue 1122 to put the machinery and staff on high alert to deal with an emergency situation.

Gilgit Baltistan is witnessing unprecedented disasters due to climate change as rising temperatures have accelerated glacial melt.

Dubbed as the ‘Third Pole’ and water tower, the ecologically fragile region is going through one of the hottest summers in its history.

National disaster

Federal Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman on Wednesday revealed that monsoon rains across the country — which began on June 14 — have claimed 77 lives so far of which 39 were reported in Balochistan.

“The figure includes children, men and women. We are trying to reach out to locals with the help of the national and provincial disaster management authorities,” she said at a press conference.

Heavy rains have been lashing multiple areas of the country since the start of this week. According to authorities, the downpour has wreaked havoc in Balochistan where the local administration has geared up to deal with any emergency situation.

In a briefing, the minister said that the water levels are high because the rains across Pakistan are 87 per cent more than the average downpour.

Inayat Amir is a staff member of the High Asia Media Group.

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