Passengers stranded as sections of Karakoram Highway blocked due to landslide

Jammu & Kashmir POK - Pakistan Occupied Kashmir

A number of passengers were stranded on the Karakoram Highway (KKH) on Monday as parts of the thoroughfare were blocked between Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Upper Kohistan and Chilas in Gilgit Baltistan’s Diamer district, according to officials.

Dasu Station House Officer (SHO) Noor Nabi Shah told that the KKH was blocked at multiple locations within the area of Upper Kohistan due to a massive mudslide at Dasu’s Kaigah area.

He said traffic was suspended on the KKH since the morning due to which “hundreds of passengers” were stranded on both sides of the international artery and facing problems.

Ghulam Abbas, the National Highway Authority’s (NHA) deputy director for Shangla and Kohistan in KP, told the road was blocked at nine different points between Diamer and Kohistan.

He said the KKH was cleared from landslides by the Frontier Works Organization on Sunday but it got blocked again today. He added that work to clear the rubble and debris was underway and expected that all blockades would be removed by 9-10pm, following which the road could be opened for traffic.

Abbas said that initially, authorities had attempted to open the artery for one-way traffic.

Furthermore, the NHA deputy director said there was a large blockade of around 500 metres in length and 7m in height in Kaigah.

Samiullah, one of the stranded passengers travelling to Upper Kohistan’s Kandia tehsil, told that he was waiting for the road clearance operation to be completed since 10am on Monday, adding that it was taking more time due to the massive landslide.

He said there were tourists, families, elderly and women among the stranded, adding that there was also a shortage of drinking water due to no shops nearby.

Meanwhile, Hafeez Mama, a local in Upper Kohistan’s Shetial area, said that a minor girl was injured and houses were also damaged after flooding in Panibah.

He said the flow of water in the Indus river had increased, and penetrated nearby houses that were already vacated.

Separately, the KP Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) said monsoon rains were likely to continue this week with a new spell likely to enter the province on Tuesday.

The PDMA directed district administrations to take precautionary measures in view of thundershowers and strong winds, warning that urban flooding, flash flooding and landsliding may occur in upper districts.

133 deaths due to monsoon rains since June 25: Sherry Rehman

Meanwhile, Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman said during a press conference in Islamabad today that 133 people had died due to monsoon rains in the country since June 25 — 65 in Punjab, 35 in KP, 11 in Islamabad, 10 in Sindh, six in Balochistan, five in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and one in GB.

Rehman said most of the deaths were a result of wall collapses.

She said an emergency was imposed in Chitral and Upper and Lower Dir on Sunday, adding that she would visit the areas soon. The minister said Rs20 million were provided to authorities to manage the emergency and tents for people who were evacuated.

Rehman said 388 houses were destroyed in KP, 2,015 people were injured and 245 livestock animals were killed in rains since June 25.

The minister urged tourists to exercise caution in the affected areas and stay near the major cities where help could be available when needed.

Weather forecast

Separately, the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) said that monsoon currents were continuously penetrating the country from the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.

“A fresh westerly wave is also likely to enter upper parts of the country from July 26,” said a forecast issued today.

The PMD warned that heavy rains could cause flash flooding in Balochistan and hill torrents of Dera Ghazi Khan on July 25 and 26 and from July 26-28 in AJK, Dir, Swat, Kohistan, Shangla, Buner, Manshera, Abbottabad, Rawalpindi and Islamabad.

It further warned of possible urban flooding in the low-lying areas of Sukkur, Larkana, Qamber Shahdad Kot, Noushero Feroze and Dadu on July 25 and 26 and the low-lying areas of Islamabad/Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Gujranwala, Lahore, Faisalabad from July 25-28.

“[Heavy rain] may trigger landslides in the vulnerable areas of Murree, Galliyat, AJK, GB and hilly areas of KP during the wet period,” the press release cautioned.

NDMA holds special NEOC session on current monsoon situation

Separately, acting National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Chairman Brigadier Naiknam Muhammad Baig presided over a special National Emergencies Operations Centre (NEOC) session with key stakeholders on the current monsoon situation.

The acting NDMA chairman reviewed the restoration of roads and bridges, monsoon-related incidents and rescue and relief operations in parts of the country, including Chitral, GB and Azad Jammu and AJK in the past two days.

He instructed relevant departments to prepare resource contingency plans and implement early warning systems and disaster mitigation interventions in hazard-prone areas by learning from the experiences of last year’s floods.

He noted that proactive measures were essential in mitigating disaster impact and called for tangible actions before disaster strikes.

The PMD director general briefed the meeting’s participants on rainfall data in the last 24 hours and the upcoming monsoon spell. He informed that the next monsoon spell was expected to bring heavy rains in the upper parts of the country from July 31 to August 6, triggering urban flooding in major cities, flash flooding and landsliding in hilly regions.

He apprised the meeting’s members about the major reservoirs, including Tarbela and Mangla which are nearly full at 79 per cent and 74pc respectively.

It was also mentioned that two Indian dams, Pong and Thein, were also close to capacity and there was a possibility of flood flow from India into the Indus river, which may affect Lahore adversely.

The Federal Flood Commission informed the participants that all major rivers were currently within normal limits.

The PDMAs, State Disaster Management Authority and Gilgit Baltistan Disaster Management Authority presented details of rescue and relief operations and restoration work of blocked communication infrastructure in their respective regions.

Baig directed provincial authorities to undertake public awareness on all media channels and social media to maximise the general public’s knowledge of the risk associated with the monsoon season and make arrangements for the allocation of their resources according to the PMD’s weather