GILGIT: Work to build a spillway in the Attabad ‘landslide’ lake was stopped on Sunday after authorities said that the target of a 30-metre deep cut has been achieved.
“As against our initial target of cutting the debris down to 18 meters, we decided to cut it down to 30 meters as the inflow of water was slow,” said a senior government official.
He added that the water is expected to overflow the banks of the dam by the end of the month. The lake now covers an area of 17 kilometres, leaving 25,000 people stranded.
The water level has reached alarming levels of 353 feet owing to the rapid meltdown of glacier in the last two days.
Assistant Commissioner Hunza, Zamir Abbad, told The Express Tribune via telephone that the evacuation of vulnerable people from downstream villages will be completed by the 20th of this month. He said that people are being mentally prepared to move to safer places in time to avoid any catastrophe.
“As per the marking of the National Engineering Services Pakistan, more than 500 people from vulnerable villages – Faqirbad, Mayoon, Hussainabad, and Khaan – are being moved,” he said.
He said that boat service has not been stopped yet but a decision to this effect will be taken in a few days.
Chinese and Frontier Works Organisation [FWO] engineers began cutting the 196,000 cubic metre-high debris from the Attabad Dam in early January after a massive landslide blocked the once fast flowing Hunza River at Attabad, creating a lake that submerged at least three villages as it expended.
At least 19 people were killed in the landslide that also swept away a major portion of Karakoram Highway that links Pakistan with China.
Officials said that more than 20 villages have been vacated and people moved to safer places.
According to experts, more than 36 villages downstream can come underwater if the dam breaks its banks.
In addition, more than 13,000 people can be displaced. Officials said that the army has been assisting the evacuation of communities living on both sides of the Hunza River in Gilgit and Hunza and Nagar districts.
According to the latest information, three upstream villages – Ayeenabad, Shishkat and many commercial areas in Gulmit town – have been flooded while a major portion of the Karakoram Highway has also submerged.
Some experts fear that debris from mountains on each side of the spillway could again close the lake’s passage.
A total of 18 relief camps have been set up in Gilgit and Hunza. Of these, nine are in Hunza Nagar and nine in Gilgit.
There are reports of traders near Pak-China borders having been evacuated from Sost in the wake of warning from the government, sources said.
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