Rain stokes fears of fresh floods, landslides

Landslides struck the Karakoram Highway in Kohistan on Wednesday.

Express August 26, 2010

GILGIT: Landslides struck the Karakoram Highway in Kohistan on Wednesday following a fresh spell of rain in the region, sources said.

Light showers were reported in Gilgit-Baltistan, raising fears of fresh floods in a region that is already reeling from a severe food and fuel crisis.

The Karakoram Highway has remained closed since July 27 when unprecedented rains and thunderstorms hit Pakistan, damaging infrastructure across the country. The region’s economy was hit badly by the highway’s continued closure since it connects Gilgit-Baltistan to Pakistan as well as China.

Last week, Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly Speaker Wazir Baig said that aid coming in from China had been delayed because of the severed road links. “Downpours have triggered fresh landslides,” said sources in Gilgit, adding that relief work had come to a halt because of it. They said that hundreds of vehicles have been stuck in Kohistan and Gilgit.

The prolonged blockage of the highway has sparked a food and fuel shortage in Gilgit-Baltistan, intensifying black marketing and hoarding. The illegal practice has made a mockery of the administration steps taken to discourage price hikes. “Prices have gone so high that we are unable to purchase different items,” said Nafeed, a resident of Gilgit.

The intermittent spells of rain that began on Tuesday continued on Wednesday. Following previous rains, unprecedented floods had wreaked havoc in Gilgit-Baltistan, devastating the infrastructure, bringing life to a standstill as communication means across the region were rendered useless.

In the aftermath of the floods, about 350 villages across the region have been affected apart from over 180 bridges which were either washed away or damaged by the floods and landslides.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 26th, 2010.


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