Snow, snow everywhere: In Shangla, blocked roads leading to crises

Food shortages, stranded patients in need of critical care, prove test of resilience.


Fazal Khaliq February 10, 2013
Villagers on foot carrying a relative in need of medical care. PHOTO: EXPRESS

SHANGLA:


One week on, a majority of villages in Shangla district are still cut off as all the link roads connecting the district are closed due to heavy snowfall and rains.


The district’s communication system disrupted by the snow, the heaviest spell in recent history, is yet to be restored. Two persons in the district have died due to severe cold, according to locals. A severe food shortage has also surfaced in the isolated areas and electricity has been suspended since power cables and poles were uprooted.

There is an acute shortage of wheat flour, vegetables, pulses and medicines in the Chakeysar tehsil, comprising four union councils with a population of 80,000.

“There is a severe food shortage. People have started slaughtering domestic animals to put food on the table. They are being forced to eat boiled maize and meat due to shortage of wheat. If the roads remain closed, famine is an imminent threat in the area” Bakht-e-Alam, former nazim of Chakeysar told The Express Tribune.



In many areas, the available food items are being sold at exorbitant prices.  A bag of four kilogrammes of flour is sold for Rs1,600 to 2,000. “We had only onions in our village which we bought for Rs 1,000 per kg,” said Gohar Ali, ANP tehsil president.

The blockade has endangered the lives of patients in need of urgent medical care, especially women due to give birth. “Six babies were delivered on the road. The condition of the mothers and their children is critical. Families and friends have to carry their patients to hospitals walking long distances,” Ali added.

Similarly, Puran sub-division is also cut off and residents are faced with a food shortage as well as no access to medical facilities.

The three persons who were buried under an avalanche in the Amnawee area have not been recovered as yet. “We tried our best to dig them out but they were buried too deep. Heavy machinery is required to recover them,” said Ajab Khan, a local resident.



The locals of Amnawee even protested in front of the Swat Press Club against the district administration for failing to recover the bodies. They demanded that the government should immediately start a relief operation, considering there was severe shortage of food. “We even don’t have clean drinking water and melt snow to survive,” said Jahanzeb, another local.

Shangla Deputy Commissioner Ziaul Haq, told the local media that the district administration did not have heavy machinery to clear the snow from the roads. “We have contacted higher authorities several times to send machinery to the district but no action has been taken yet,” he said, adding that two bulldozers and excavators were taken away by the army engineering corps.

The locals have appealed the provincial and federal governments to declare the district as a calamity-hit area and provide relief on an emergency basis.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 10th, 2013.

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