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.


UK PM Johnson says groups of 6 people can meet outside from Monday

Updated 18 min 49 sec ago

UK PM Johnson says groups of 6 people can meet outside from Monday

  • Schools would re-open to more pupils and outdoor retailers and car showrooms would also be able to open from Monday, Johnson said

LONDON: Groups of up to 6 people will be able to meet outside in England from Monday if they maintain social distancing, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday as he confirmed that tests had been met to ease the coronavirus lockdown further.
“These changes mean that friends and family can start to meet their loved ones, perhaps seeing both parents at once or grandparents at once,” Johnson told reporters, adding that schools would re-open to more pupils and outdoor retailers and car showrooms would also be able to open from Monday.