Around 400 marooned villagers rescued from Deosai Plains

Bad weather also caused dozens of villages in Bakot, Abbottabad to remain disconnected from the main city



GILGIT/ABBOTTABAD: At least 400 villagers stranded in Deosai Plains after heavy rains and snow wreaked havoc in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) have been rescued.

The recent torrential downpour killed 11 people in G-B. The rains were followed by snowfall which severely damaged roads in the area on Friday, leaving people stranded on one of the highest plateaus in the world, the Deosai Plains.

“According to the Astore district administration, 252 villagers, including over 100 children, and their cattle were shifted to safer places on Saturday,” said information department deputy director Farooq Ahmed on Sunday. The rescue operation was launched by the administration with the assistance from Pakistan Army.

Over 140 villagers who went missing a day earlier were located on Sunday and are being shifted safely to Chilam, said Ahmed, referring to information released by Deputy Commissioner Tariq Khan.

Of the rescued people, five suffered frostbite, he added. They have been admitted to District Headquarters Hospital, Astore.

“Over 5,000 heads of cattle have also been relocated with the villagers,” Ahmed told The Express Tribune.

“Villagers settled around Deosai are poor and live in traditional abodes, which unlike modern houses are vulnerable to torrents and hailstorms,” said the deputy director.

Meanwhile, reports reaching Gilgit suggest more than 25 houses have been damaged by landslides in Rondu. The avalanches also destroyed barns, killing livestock. G-B Chief Minister Mehdi Shah expressed grief over the losses caused by rains in G-B, and assured aggrieved families of financial assistance.

In his meeting with Minister for Works Bashir Ahmed and opposition leader Janbaz Khan, the CM asked the disaster management authority to initiate rescue and relief operation in the affected valleys.

Cut off by landslides

Dozens of villages of Bakot circle in Abbottabad district remained disconnected from the rest of the city as well as Azad Kashmir for the sixth consecutive day due to landslides blocking Bakot-Kohala Road. This has been confirmed by locals, said the police on Sunday.

The 40-km-long Bakot-Kohala Road in Abbottabad allows residents from over three dozen villages to travel to Nathiagali and Abbottabad in K-P, Murree in Punjab and Kohala in Azad Kashmir for daily work and other matters.

“Despite the presence of three civic agencies—the Abbottabad Cantonment Board, Communication & Works department and Galiyat Development Authority—that are supposed to ensure maintained infrastructure, roads remain blocked at several places.” said Navaid Abbasi, a resident of Bakot.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 8th, 2014.

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