By Farman Baltistani
SKARDU, Aug 6: Floods and landslides have devastated Sadpara valley and Skardu town of Baltistan Division. Hundreds of tourists are stranded in Skardu due to the road blockade.
Flash-floods and landslide caused by torrential rain and lightning hit Sadpara Village on Thursday last damaging three hotels, 80 houses, bridges, Deosai road, farmlands, trees worth millions of rupees and disrupting telecommunications and power supply systems.
In Skardu, five youth went missing when the flash-flood swept them away and destroyed Deosai Road at several places in the Sadpara Dam area.
The missing persons, identified as Haider, his son, Asif, Mukhtar and Zeeshan, were heading Skardu from Gultari, when hill-torrent swept them away or buried under mud and boulders brought down by torrential rain. The search operation for the missing persons is under way but till filing of this report, no clue had been found. They left their car near the Sadpara village and started walking as the flash-flood had blocked the Deosai Road.
The famous Lakeview Hotel at Sadpara Dam was again swept away by hill torrent damaging two other hotels, farmland and thousands of trees. The hotel was also damaged by the 2016 floods.
Mohammad Afzal, the owner of the hotel, said, “I had hardly rebuilt the hotel by getting loans last year, but this time the landslide completely devastated the hotel, orchard, grassy lawn and all my property, he said, nothing has left, all my property has been totally devastated, the dejected Afzal said.
“Hundreds of tourists were shifted to the houses of local people in Sadpara Village after the blockade of the road by the landslide. The tourists appreciated the humanitarian gesture of the local people,” Hamid Hussain, a tourist who was hosted by a resident.
“Next day when the rain stopped I managed to cross the blockade with my family by walking two hours,” he said.
Owing to blockade of the road several tourist vehicles are still stranded at Sadpara village.
Due to road blockade, more than 1,100 families of Sadpara village have been trapped and they are waiting for reopening of the road to buy essential food items from nearby towns. They are also stated to be facing a shortage of medicines as aged people and children are suffering from gastroenteritis due to polluted water.
In Skardu Rgia Yull, 80 houses were destroyed by rain and landslide. The residents had already shifted to safer places. However, the flood and landslide devastated agri-farms and fruit trees worth millions of rupees.
The flood affected people of Rgia Yull are awaiting immediate help from the government and NGOs.
In Hussainabad, a bridge connecting Skardu to three other districts of Baltistan was damaged by landslide and flood disrupting road communication.
However, after hectic efforts by the worker of PWD the blockade has been cleared for heavy vehicles but still blocked for light vehicles.
The glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF) due to the hot spell damaged crops, forests, orchards and a bridge in Shimshal valley of Hunza District and Tangir, Thor, and Thak Valleys as well as Gunar Farm of Diamer District last week.
One person is reported to have been swept away by the raging flash floods in Gunar Farm, 20Km off Chilas.
Shimshal Valley, which has been affected the most, is cut off from the rest of the region for the last nine days as the flooding has either totally washed away or partially damaged the road at several points from Passu to Purkzherekh.
Work on the road has been started by the PWD but it will take weeks to restore vehicular traffic on the road, Naveedullah told The High Asia Herald.
Over 150 people, mostly students and patients, are stranded in the valley and waiting for helicopter and relief assistance.
Food items and medicines are running out very fast.
Social and political activists criticized 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 Shimshal and Skardu to airlift the stranded patients, students and tourists, airdrop food and medicines to the valleys.