Islamabad, Aug 3: Flash-Floods and landslides in several valleys of Gilgit-Baltistan have caused massive destruction, blocked roads including the Karakoram Highway (KKH), the main artery of the region, during the last one week, local people and passengers told The High Asia Herald on Thursday.
The glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF) due to the hot spell continuing for the last three weeks have damaged crops, forests, orchards and bridges in Shimshal valley of Hunza District and Tangir, Thor, and Thak Valleys as well as Gunar Farm of Diamer District.
One person is reported to have been swept away by the raging flash floods in Gunar Farm, 20km off Chilas.
Hundreds of passengers remained stranded at various points on Karakoram Highway (KKH) and Chilas-Babusar Road for hours due to landslides and flash floods.
The KKH has also been blocked at Padi, 15km from Gilgit due to landslides.
Cloudburst in Thak Nullah triggered massive landslides leading to blockade of the busiest Chilas-Naran Road at 15 points on Wednesday, some passengers told the Herald.
Falling boulders and mud damaged two cars on the road, a student who was travelling in one of the three NATCO buses said.
Ahsamullah Najib, who is studying in China and had gone to his native town in Hunza for spending vacations, said on Wednesday at 3pm, it suddenly started raining after a big bang due to cloudburst. The 20 minutes heavy shower caused landslides and flood in the Thak stream. Huge boulders and mud piled up on the road, he added.
Hundreds of passengers travelling in three buses of the government-run NATCO bus service and over 30 private vehicles were stranded at various points.
Fortunately, all the three buses and other vehicles remained safe, he said. Most of the passengers were local tourists including women and children and a newly-wed couple.
However, a huge boulder and mud hit a car. The passengers miraculously remained safe.
All the passengers walked back towards Chilas town for two hours while it continued raining. Local taxi cabs and private cars transported the passengers to Chilas where they hired private vehicles to travel to Islamabad. Taking advantage of the situation, some vehicle owners were found overcharging the passengers.
Shimshal Valley, which has been affected the most, is cut off from the rest of the region for the last six days as the flooding has either totally washed away or partially damaged the road at several points from Passu to Purkzherekh. The Shimshal River is in very high flood due to the Khurdopin glacial lake outburst.
Over 150 people, mostly students and patients, are stranded in the valley and waiting for helicopter and relief assistance.
The condition of the road has become very risky for people especially for women and children to walk on.
Food items and medicines are running out very fast creating an emergency-like situation in the valley.
Social and political activists criticised the apathy of the GB government for not responding to the disaster.
They also condemned the mainstream and local media for not highlighting the miseries of the people and wasting hours on frivolous political debates on non-issues.
They demanded the government to start helicopter service to the valley to airlift the stranded patients and students, airdrop food and medicines to the valley.
—Additional inputs and photos by Naveedullah Spicher and Ahsamullah Najib