Kashmir: Gilgit-Baltistan cut off as rains trigger landslides

Jammu & Kashmir POK - Pakistan Occupied Kashmir

GILGIT: A fresh rain and snowfall spell brought life in Gilgit-Baltistan to a standstill, leaving thousands of people stranded on the Karakoram Highway (KKH) after it was blocked at various points due to landslides triggered by the deluge.

According to rescue officials, intermittent rain continued across GB and adjoining areas on Tues­day, with KKH blocked at two loc­a­tions in Basari and Lotter in Koh­istan due to landslides. The Gilgit-Nagar section of the Karakoram Highway was also blocked along with blockades in Gandlo Nullah and Tatapani (Chilas). The Baltis­tan Road was also blocked at two points in Roundu, Skardu, due to mudslides.

The Chilas section, however, was opened to traffic by the time this report went to press.

Some parts of the region, including areas in the Gilgit city, also faced communication outages due to untimely snowfall received in the upper areas of Astore, Skardu, Hunza, Nagar, Ghanche, Khar­mang, Shigar, and Ghizer. Like­wise, the flight link of the GB region remained suspended due to bad weather conditions. Accor­ding to the Civil Aviation Autho­rity, the first regular international flight from Skardu to Dubai scheduled to start on Monday was cancelled due to weather.

AFP adds: At least 143 people died in Pakistan from lightning strikes and other storm-related incidents in April, with the country receiving more than twice as much rain as usual for the month, AFP said citing unnamed officials.

Pakistan saw a rainfall “increase of 164 per cent above the normal levels in April, which is very unusual”, said Zaheer Ahmad Babar, spokesperson for the Pakistan Meteorological Department. The largest death toll for April was in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where 83 people died, including 38 children, and where more than 3,500 homes have been damaged.

Environmental expert Maryam Shabbir Abbasi told AFP that overall weather patterns had shifted by “about a month and a half, and we should shift our calendars for the agriculture sector accordingly to avoid damages caused by unprecedented rainfall”.

Officials earlier this month said several people, including farmers harvesting wheat, were killed by lightning in Punjab, and that a total of 21 people were killed in different rain-related incidents.

Another 21 deaths were reported in Balochistan in April, including seven people who were struck by lightning, with rain disrupting life in some districts and causing school closures. In parts of Azad Kashmir, 14 people were killed, and at least four were killed in road accidents linked to floods in Sindh.__Dawn.com