Avalanches, snow wreak havoc in Pakistan; 73 dead

Residents of the Afghan capital Kabul, where temperatures dropped to -15° Celsius, abandoned driving on Monday and struggled to get to work on snow-covered roads. (AP)
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Updated 15 January 2020

Avalanches, snow wreak havoc in Pakistan; 73 dead

  • Situation equally terrible in Afghanistan where most of the highways remain blocked

KARACHI/KABUL: Avalanches and extreme weather have killed at least 73 people in Pakistan’s Balochistan and Azad Kashmir regions.
More than 40 people died when two avalanches hit the Neelum Valley of Azad Kashmir on Tuesday.

Saqib Mumtaz, of the National Disaster Management Authority, told Arab News that a further 10 people were missing.

At least 14 people have died since Saturday due to extreme weather in the region, he said. Search and rescue efforts are underway following a series of landslides in Azad Kashmir’s hilly areas.
On Tuesday, hundreds of people were rescued after being stranded for three days in the Killa Saifullah district in Balochistan. 

An emergency was declared after heavy snowfalls in Balochistan province on Sunday. 

Pakistan’s Meteorological Department warned that heavy rain and snow in northwestern parts of Balochistan could cause flash flooding. The province has recorded its heaviest snowfall in two decades, according to authorities.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, at least 24 people died in floods caused by torrential rain and heavy snowfall, officials revealed on Tuesday.

Another 40 people have been injured in the past two days, especially in southwestern regions, after floodwaters and snow blocked most of the country’s highways and destroyed roads.

Hasibullah Shaikhani, spokesman for the State Ministry for Disaster Management, said more snow was forecast and avalanches were possible.

HIGHLIGHT

Residents of Kabul, where temperatures dropped to minus 15, struggled to get to work on snow-covered roads, while water pipes in some of the city’s neighborhoods were frozen.

Residents of Kabul, where temperatures dropped to minus 15, struggled to get to work on snow-covered roads, while water pipes in some of the city’s neighborhoods were frozen. The price of gas shot up by 35 percent in the capital as a result of the highway closures and the cost of firewood also soared.

Economist, Shafiqullah Payenda, told Arab News that the Afghan government had failed to properly address the crisis. “Gas prices have gone up drastically, some people are hoarding it and the government does not seem to be doing anything to prevent it,” he said.

Domestic and international flights were canceled in major cities, with Herat in the west being the worst affected. Home to tens of thousands of people displaced by war and drought, the city has been hit by flooding and the coldest winter in years.

Mohammad Reza, a lawyer from Herat, told Arab News that there had been a lack of coordination between central and provincial government officials, exampled by their inability to clear and reopen roads.

“The government is good at talking about theories, but it has not been able to deliver much. It has not taken any pre-emptive measures to address the disaster and reopen the roads or highways,” he said.

According to Afghanistan’s deputy minister for disaster management, Mohammad Qasim Haidari, the government had provided enough resources and finance to deal with any emergency in the country.

He said that 117 districts had been exposed to harsh weather conditions and were vulnerable but insisted that authorities had sufficient means to overcome shortages.


South Sudan confirms first case of coronavirus

Updated 4 min 15 sec ago

South Sudan confirms first case of coronavirus

  • The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said the woman is a member of its staff
  • South Sudan has already closed bars, night clubs and shops, other than those selling food, and encouraged people to observe social distancing rules

JUBA: South Sudan reported its first coronavirus case on Sunday, one of the last African nations to confirm the presence of COVID-19 within its borders.
“South Sudan confirms one case of coronavirus,” Riek Machar, the country’s first vice president, told a press conference in the capital Juba.
Machar identified the patient as a 29-year-old woman who arrived in South Sudan from the Netherlands via Ethiopia on February 28.
Her nationality was not given.
In a statement, the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) said the woman is a member of its staff.
She tested positive for coronavirus on Saturday after presenting herself at a UN clinic on Thursday.
“The Ministry of Health is leading a full investigation with the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention including identifying and following up all the possible contacts and next steps,” Machar said.
South Sudan has already closed bars, night clubs and shops, other than those selling food, and encouraged people to observe social distancing rules.
Borders have been shut and the country’s international airport closed. A curfew is also in place from 8:00 p.m. to 06:00 am.
One of the world’s poorest countries, South Sudan is woefully undeveloped. It has been wracked by a series of civil wars over decades, leaving it ill-equipped to fight the pandemic or provide even basic health care to its citizens.
The most recent round of civil war cost the lives of an estimated 380,000 people, forced millions from their homes and wrecked the already weak economy. It only ended with the appointment of Machar as vice president in February, rejoining the government of his foe President Salva Kiir.