Blanketed: Two mine workers die in avalanche in Naran

Hazara DIG claims survivors rescued on foot; helicopters unable to brave weather

Muhammad Sadaqat October 25, 2015
Lulusar Lake and surrounding hills after snowfall in Naran. PHOTO: ONLINE


Two people were killed, eight injured and several were marooned when an avalanche buried miners in Besar, a far- flung village in Naran Valley close to Chilas, said officials.

Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) said the miners were at least 18 in number and mostly from Kohistan. However, Nehmat Khan, a labourer at the site of the avalanche, told journalists via satellite phone that over 30 labourers were engaged in excavating rubies in the area where the avalanche occurred.

He said they were having breakfast around 10am in a tent at the basecamp when the avalanche engulfed 10 of them. He said fellow workers who escaped unhurt started a rescue operation, recovering nine wounded and one dead. However, the lack of transportation meant the injured could not be shifted to a hospital immediately.

“The area where the avalanche happened is at a distance of three hours on foot from the main village,” he said. Nehmat shared one of the five critically wounded workers succumbed to his injuries before help could reach them. The deceased were identified as Noor Alam and Rehmat, said police.

Calls for SOS

When approached, Mansehra DPO Najibur Rehman confirmed the report, adding the area was hard to access with a hilly terrain and no road or transportation facility.

Lulusar Lake and surrounding hills after snowfall in Naran. PHOTO: ONLINE

The official said he sent an SOS message to the home department to shift the injured to hospitals via helicopter. However, a chopper was unable to reach the site even five hours after the incident due to rainy weather. The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government said it would be sending helicopters today (Monday). The delay was caused by inclement weather.

The National Logistics Cell (NLC), National Highway Authority (NHA) and the military were helping clear the route, according to officials. Some traffic had started moving till the time this report was filed.

Hazara DIG Akhtar Hayat Gandapur told The Express Tribune that to the best of his knowledge, 15 mine workers were finally rescued on foot and shifted safely to the police post in Besar. He claimed there were 16 workers buried under the avalanche and only one of them died. He said efforts were afoot to shift them to Mansehra as the NHA had moved some machinery to open the road.

Over 1,200 stranded

Over 1,000 tourists have been stranded in Kaghan Valley over the last couple of days due to heavy snowfall and landslides on Sharah-e-Kaghan, said police and locals.

The road was blocked from Balakot to Naran, Naran to Jalkhad, Naran to Lake Saiful Malook and Naran to Babusar.

Snowfall came early this year. It started lashing Kaghan Valley on Saturday and continued intermittently for a second consecutive day. The area between Balakot to Mahandri received between one and 1.5 feet of snow while Naran and Shogran received 2.5 to three feet of snow.

Meanwhile, the area from Naran to Babusar Top received up to four feet of snow, leaving the roads blocked and tourists stranded.

According to locals, a large number of tourists thronged Kaghan Valley in the Muharram holidays. Some of them were stranded in their vehicles, while others opted to extend their hotel stay. “The hoteliers have stared fleecing tourists with increased rates – they are taking advantage of the situation,” Imran, a resident of Taxila told newsmen over the telephone.

The Mansehra DPO said over 600 vehicles and more than 1,200 tourists were stranded in Naran and adjoining areas.

Rehman added that he contacted NHA authorities who said they only had one shovel and tractor which were already being used to clear the road. The DPO said he contacted the Abbottabad district administration and asked them for shovels and snow-removing equipment on an emergency basis.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 26th, 2015.


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