KARACHI: Prime Minister Imran Khan has instructed the authorities to urgently assist the residents of Azad Kashmir where dozens of people have lost their lives due to avalanches and many more remain missing, officials said on Wednesday.
The countrywide death toll in avalanches, landslides and other incidents caused by harsh weather has reached 100, and the authorities fear that number may increase. Rescue operations in snow-hit areas of the Neelum Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan and Balochistan continue, Pakistan Army's media wing (ISPR) confirmed on Wednesday evening.
In Azad Kashmir, heavy rains and snowfall in the last two days triggered avalanches in different areas.
“The avalanches and other rain-related incidents have killed 76 and injured 53 others. They have also damaged 198 houses, 20 shops and one mosque,” the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) spokesman, Saqib Mumtaz, told Arab News.
PM Khan on Wednesday visited Muzaffarabad, the capital city of Azad Kashmir, to review the ground situation.
The regional chief secretary of the area briefed him about the damages and ongoing relief efforts.
Khan also visited a military hospital in Muzaffarabad and met with injured people who are undergoing treatment at the health facility.
Discussing the situation in Balochistan, an official told Arab News that 20 people were killed in various incidents in the province. “The situation is under control and all stranded people have been rescued,” Liaquat Shahwani said.
“Two people died and eight were injured in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, while two people also died in Gilgit-Baltistan,” the NDMA said in a statement on Wednesday.
“The rescue and relief operations in Neelum Valley are underway as per the directives of Prime Minister Imran Khan. Today, three more helicopters left for the valley with rations, tents, blankets, medicines and other items of necessity,” Mumtaz, the NDMA spokesperson, said.
“The severe snowfalls and landslides in AJK [Azad Jammu and Kashmir] have caused misery & deaths. I have asked the NDMA, the military & all our federal ministers to immediately provide all humanitarian assistance on an emergency footing to the affected people in AJK,” Khan tweeted on Tuesday.
Army helicopters delivered tents, blankets, food, and medicine to locations in which road access has been cut off, according to a statement by ISPR. The military also said parts of the Karakoram Highway and Jaglot Skardu Road which were blocked earlier are already clear.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) warns that heavy rains and snow in northwestern parts of Balochistan may result in flash floods. The province has recorded the heaviest snowfall in two decades, according to the PMD.
A westerly wave has also engulfed the upper parts of the country, the PMD said in a statement on Tuesday, forecasting cold and dry weather in most parts of Pakistan and extremely frigid climate in north Balochistan.
Rain and snowfall are also expected in Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir.
Other than that, reports indicate that floods in Balochistan have affected the freight train service between Pakistan and Iran, which remained suspended due to major damage to the railway track in Noshki and Dalbandin.