GILGIT: Shortages of food, fuel, medicines and other basic items have made the lives of people of Gilgit-Baltistan miserable for the past five days as landslides and flash floods caused by torrential rains have blocked the Karakoram Highway and link roads.
The region has been cut off from the rest of the country. Electricity supply to most areas has been suspended after the damage of power stations by rains and flash floods. The communication system has been severely affected.
The process of rehabilitating communication and roads infrastructure and rescuing stranded people has been slow.
The administration complained that shortage of fuel to run machinery and blockade of roads had hampered rescue and relief operations.
Meanwhile, police arrested Tehreek-i-Islami member of the GB Legislative Assembly, retired Capt Mohammad Shafi Khan, and his three companions on Thursday on charges of snatching relief goods and thrashing government officials in Oshikhandas area of Gilgit.
An FIR was registered against the MLA, his driver Ilyas, Quwat Shah and Majnoon Shah under sections 337, 340-A, 341, 353, 500 and 506 of the Pakistan Penal Code. A case was also registered against them under the Anti-Terrorism Act at the Danyor police station.
An anti-terrorism court in Gilgit sent them to jail on judicial remand. Police are searching for their 15 other accomplices.
Meanwhile, the president of PPP’s GB chapter, Amjad Hussain, accused Chief Minister Hafeezur Rehman and members of his cabinet of fleeing to Islamabad to avoid taking any step for addressing people’s misery.
Addressing a press conference, he said the people of GB were facing a food crisis as prices of bread and other items had shot up beyond their means.
Mr Hussain said 30 people were still missing in Yasin area of Ghizer district and thousands of people across the region had been rendered homeless. He alleged that the GB and federal governments were making no efforts to cope with the humanitarian crisis. He appealed to international donors to help the affected people.
On the other hand, GB Works Minister Dr Iqbal claimed that the government was providing relief goods to the affected areas and working on restoring the communication system and power supply. He said the government had sufficient wheat and fuel for several days.
The Frontier Works Organisation and district administration were trying to reopen the Karakoram Highway and other roads, he added.
Meanwhile, army helicopters evacuated about 150 foreign tourists, passengers and patients stranded in Hunza, Chilas, Diamer and Gilgit districts. They were later shifted to Islamabad in C-130 aircraft.
KKH blocked: A massive landslide again blocked the Karakoram Highway in Chuching area of Kohistan district on Thursday.
“The Karakoram Highway was closed to traffic after a huge mass of a mountain fell on it near Dasu. Boulders kept rolling down the entire day, affecting the flow of Indus River,” Kohistan Deputy Commissioner Fazl-i-Khaliq told reporters. “We will start removing the boulders tomorrow if landslide stops.”
He said a helicopter loaded with food and relief items had reached Puttan, but could not fly to Thor Nullah Bari area of Kandia tehsil, where 23 people, including 13 women, were still buried under rubble, because of rough weather.
About 30 people were buried alive after a huge portion of earth detached from a mountain and fell on a hamlet of houses in the area. Two bodies and four injured were recovered on Tuesday.
About 60 volunteers left Dasu for the affected village on Thursday to take part in the rescue operation, but none of the remaining 23 people could be recovered.
“We cannot declare them dead at this stage. We are still hopeful of their recovery,” Mr Khaliq said.
In Shangla, the Karakoram Highway and other roads remained blocked to traffic because of landslides at different places.
The local Met office forecast a fresh spell of rain from Thursday night, which may trigger more landslides in the district.
The Assistant Commissioner of Shangla, Taimor Khan Afridi, said Swat-Besham road had been partially opened to traffic.
Roads in Chakesar, Kana and Martung tehsils have either been washed away by floods or blocked by landslides.
Haider Ali, a resident of Chakesar, told Dawn on phone that the area had been cut off from other parts of the district for eight days and people feared food shortage.
Nisar Ahmad Khan from Mansehra and Umar Bacha from Shangla contributed to the report
Published in Dawn, April 8th, 2016