GILGIT: Hunza was placed on high alert on Sunday as the artificial lake in Attabad swelled, with the gap between the water level and the spillway narrowing to six feet.
Earlier, officials had predicated that the lake would burst its banks by May 25 but now authorities say this could be delayed by four or five days as the lake is expanding upstream. “I think the reason [for the delay] is that the lake is expanding upstream and the inflow, instead of collecting in the lake, has been diverted to the other sides, flooding more villages steadily,” an official said. Although the water’s inflow remained static on Sunday at 2,300 cusecs per day, the rise in the landslide lake’s water level was about two feet as against 3.8 feet the other day, officials said.
Villages upstream, including Gulmit, Shishkat, Ghulkin and Hussaini, have born the burnt of the devastation caused by the lake’s expansion and increasing amounts of displaced people are flooding relief camps. So far nearly 125 shops and 100 houses have been flooded upstream as the landslide lake expands. Meanwhile, the local administration has issued a final warning to residents of villages downstream, asking them to stay away from their ‘vulnerable’ vacant homes. About 14,000 people from more than 30 villages in Hunza, Nagar and Gilgit have been shifted to safer places in anticipation of the lake breaching its banks.
“The water can breach the banks of the lake anytime and those present at their villages will themselves be responsible for their losses,” said Zafar Taj, the deputy commissioner Hunza. “We have already banned people from entering their vacant villages during the night and now they have been banned from visiting their homes even during the daytime in view of the looming danger,” he added. Displaced people used to visit their deserted houses to ensure that the belongings they couldn’t take with them to relief camps were safe.
At least six helicopters ferried stranded people and their possessions from Gojal, and Hunza to safer areas in Gilgit on Sunday, despite the weather being mostly cloudy. Officials said that so far more than 50 helicopter trips have transported over 800 people and 3,500 kgs of food, fuel and medicines in and around the area. Meanwhile at least 20 houses were damaged in yet another landslide that struck a village in Skardu early on Sunday, officials said.
Triggered by incessant rains, the landslide occurred at Krase, a village located about 50 kilometres from Skardu. The landslide damaged at least 20 houses, two of them government school buildings, officials in Skardu told The Express Tribune. They said the road leading to Krase, a remote village in district Ghanche, was blocked by heavy boulders which had rolled down the mountain a day before the landslide. The officials said the government had sent a team to the area to assess the extent the damage done to the village. According to reports, the residents of Krase had vacated their houses earlier in anticipation of the landslide and had moved in with relatives living elsewhere.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 24th, 2010.