Heavy rains that triggered landslides in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) and Chitral, killing at least nine people, have severed key routes to the valleys, forcing affected villagers to appeal for more assistance.
“We are in great distress,” Rehana Bibi, a resident of Upper Chitral, was quoted as saying in a report by IRIN, the UN information unit.
“Life has come to a standstill. Terraced land where we grow crops has been destroyed and we have received hardly any help at all.”
A landslide in Qurqulti village in Ghizer valley, buried some 12 houses on March 20, some 10 kilometres (km) from Gilgit.
At least four people were buried in the landslide. In neighbouring Chitral, at least five women were killed when a landslide struck the remote village of What, 15km from Garam Chashma in Chitral district.
The landslides have blocked various routes to Ghizer valley, north of G-B, according to a district administration official in Gilgit, Shuja Alam.
Heavy rain is forecast for the next few days, according to the Meteorological Office, which reported 33 millimetres of rain in Gilgit in the past two days.
Alam said people living in villages in the nearby Yaseen valley have been advised to move, but residents said they have been offered no alternative accommodation and that key routes have been cut off.
“We cannot leave our homes unprotected,” said local resident, Nasir Ahmed.
Food shortages are already being reported in Ghizer. “We are running short of milk and medicines, especially for children who are sick,” said Shafiq Ahmed, who lives in Ghizer valley.
Alam said the government was trying to reach affected people as quickly as possible. The army would be called in “if required”, he added, but Ahmed was sceptical, “We have heard such words before. They have not always transformed into reality.”
In Chitral, road links have been severed in Tau area, but help was apparently at hand.
“The paramilitary Chitral Scouts and the police have been engaged to carry out rescue work and efforts have been made to assist the affected people,” said Adnan Khan, a spokesman for the Provincial Disaster Management Authority, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
Chitral and G-B are considered disaster-prone areas. In 2010, an avalanche created an artificial lake along the main road near Attabad village in Gojal valley, Upper Hunza, cutting off areas to the north and sweeping away most of the village.
Chitral is in the red zone and prone to natural disasters, according to an official of the National Disaster Management Authority.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 25th, 2012.