Avalanches, snow wreak havoc in Pakistan; 73 dead

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

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.


Kabul says no impact on security as US reduces troops to 2,500

The Pentagon confirmed the reduction of US troops on Friday in accordance with President Donald Trump administration’s November pledge to cut the number of US forces in Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500 by mid-January. (Reuters/File Photo)
The Pentagon confirmed the reduction of US troops on Friday in accordance with President Donald Trump administration’s November pledge to cut the number of US forces in Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500 by mid-January. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 24 min 59 sec ago

Kabul says no impact on security as US reduces troops to 2,500

The Pentagon confirmed the reduction of US troops on Friday in accordance with President Donald Trump administration’s November pledge to cut the number of US forces in Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500 by mid-January. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • Reduction means the lowest level of US forces in Afghanistan since 2001, when the US invaded the country and ousted the Taliban
  • Taliban welcome the US move, describing it as important in the implementation of a historic deal signed by the group and Washington in February

ISLAMABAD: The Afghan National Security Council said on Saturday that the reduction of US forces in the country has no major impact on the security situation, as Washington announced it had met its goal of decreasing the number of troops to 2,500.

The Pentagon confirmed the reduction of US troops on Friday in accordance with President Donald Trump administration’s November pledge to cut the number of US forces in Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500 by mid-January.

The troop reduction means the lowest level of American forces in Afghanistan since 2001, when the US invaded the country and ousted the Taliban who ruled Afghanistan from 1996.

“The reduction or increase of the American forces does not have any major negative impact on the fighting situation in Afghanistan,” Maulvi Rahmatullah, spokesman for the Afghan National Security Council, said in a video response to the Pentagon announcement.

However, Afghanistan’s vice president, Amrullah Saleh, said in a BBC interview on Friday that the “pullout risks more violence in the unstable country.”

He added that the American mission, which began 20 years ago, is not yet accomplished and that the US had made a mistake by conceding too much to the Taliban.

The Taliban, meanwhile, have welcomed the US move, describing it as an important step toward the implementation of a historic deal signed by the group and Washington in Doha, Qatar, in February last year, under which all US-led troops would leave Afghanistan within 14 months.

“We consider the decision as a good and effective step toward the implementation of the Doha agreement. We, the Islamic Emirate, are also committed to all sections of the Doha agreement,” Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, told Arab News on Saturday.

He said the Taliban hoped that the Doha agreement would be fully implemented and all American forces would leave Afghanistan in the agreed timeframe.

“We consider withdrawal of the troops and leaving Afghan soil as a positive step for the people of the US and Afghans, and welcome it,” Mujahid said.

While acting US Defense Secretary Chris Miller said on Friday that the US was planning “further reducing US troop levels to zero by May of 2021,” he added that “any such future drawdowns remain conditions-based.”

As the Trump administration ends its term when President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Wednesday, there have been few clues about what the new US government plans are for Afghanistan.