GILGIT: Cameras have been installed along Attabad’s landslide lake to monitor developments in the next 24 hours as lake-water remained just two metres away from the spillway.
Force Commander Gilgit- Baltistan, Major-General Qamar Javed Bajwa, on Wednesday said that close circuit cameras linked to FCNA, Gilgit and the GHQ had been fitted along the lake so that officials could keep tabs on any important developments. He said water in the lake had almost reached the spillway, so such monitoring was necessary. Officials said that the on-site measurement of the lake had been abandoned because of safety considerations from May 24 onwards. Maj-Gen Bajwa said army medical staff had been put on high alert to cope with an emergency.
He said the army had arranged for the use of four helicopters to assist IDPs stranded in upper Hunza and beyond. In order to restore communication links severed due to the damage to the Karakoram Highway, Bajwa said a 400-foot long bridge capable of bearing 50 tons of weight would be set up in Attabad. “The bridge is ready but it will be strung across the lake only after the water level decreases,” said Bajwa.
Explaining why the government didn’t blow up debris that blocked the Hunza River in January, Bajwa said explosives could have triggered more landslides as the area was lying on a fault line. Meanwhile, Chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority Lt-Gen (Retd) Nadeem Ahmed said water from the lake is expected to spill over on May 28. Reports indicated that despite the impending disaster, people in Gulmit were left to fend for themselves without any government support.
“There was no assistance from the Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal,” said an IDP in Gulmit. He said the local hospital didn’t have any doctors and schools were deprived of teachers. In view of the impending disaster, transporters have restricted travel on the Karakoram Highway. Travelers told The Express Tribune that private transport companies were reluctant to travel to Gilgit. The deputy commissioner Gilgit, Asad Zamin, said that travel from Gilgit to Hunza is ‘discouraged’ at the moment but has not been banned.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 27th, 2010.