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QUETTA: Three people were killed and nine others injured in weather-related incidents on Sunday and thousands of vehicles stuck in different areas of Balochistan after highways linking Quetta with the rest of the country were blocked because of overnight heavy snowfall.

The Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) issued a high alert, while personnel of the Pakistan Army and Frontier Corps were called out to help the civil administration reopen the roads.

Ali Ahmed and Javed Ahmed died when the pick-up they were travelling in and trying to cross the flooded Khulan nullah in the Kharan area was swept away, police said.

One person died and three others suffered injuries when their car overturned because of heavy rain in the Kohlu area.

Six labourers were injured when the roof of a flour mill caved in in Quetta.

Their names could not be ascertained.

As if freezing cold were not enough to disrupt life, power supply to Quetta and 20 other districts remained suspended because of a fault in the main transmission lines.

In its alert, the PDMA asked people to avoid travelling towards Ziarat and from Quetta to Karachi, Taftan and Chaman because of blocked highways.

Most parts of country continue to be in grip of biting cold

Thousands of vehicles were stuck on their way to and fro Quetta, Kalat, Khuzdar, Qila Saifullah, Ziarat, Chaman, Khanozai and Kan Mehterzai.

People, especially women and children, were facing hardship in the biting cold as their vehicles remained stuck for the last two days.

“We have been waiting for clearance of road since last evening in the Mangocher area where heavy snowfall has blocked the Quetta-Karachi highway at Luckpass and other areas,” Qazi Younis, a passenger going to Karachi, told Dawn over telephone. “Hundreds of passenger coaches, buses and cars could be seen stuck in the area and there was no food and drinking water for the people trapped in the area.”

Chief Secretary Saifullah Chattah directed the authorities concerned, including the Kalat commissioner, to provide food, blankets and relief goods to the people stranded in the snow-hit areas.

The army and FC troops reportedly started clearing roads while the PDMA has set up emergency centres in different areas affected by snowfall and rain.

Two feet of snow was recorded in some areas of Quetta and three feet on the mountains of Ziarat and Kalat.

The Mat office forecast more rains and snowfall in different areas of Balochistan over the next 24 hours.

In Lahore, weather remained clear till afternoon and a bright sunshine gave the much-needed warmth to the cold-bitten city. However, it started raining in the evening.

The active westerly wave that is producing rain and snow over the hills slowly moved over to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It gave one foot of snow over Parachinar.

The Met department reported snowfall in Gilgit-Baltistan’s Ghazar area and there were reports of closure of the Shandoor Top and Chitral-Ghazar route.

Layyah received 20mm of rain, Khuzdar 10mm, Dera Ismail Khan and Malam Jabba 8mm each, Barkhan and Bannu 5mm each, Zhob and Cherat 4mm each, Ormara 3mm, Jhang and Sargodha 2mm each, Kot Addu, Kamra, Bahawalpur, Dera Ghazi Khan and Islamabad 1mm each, Sukkur 3mm, Dadu 2mm and Jacobabad 1mm.

The minimum temperature in Skardu was minus 12°C. It was -10 in Kalam, -7 in Kalat and Astore, -6 in Malam Jabba, -5 in Bagrote and Parachinar, -4 in Hunza, -3 in Gilgit, Dir, Drosh and Murree, and -2 in Chitral and Kakul.

The Met department has forecast more rain-thunderstorm with snowfall over the hills at scattered places in Islamabad, upper Punjab, KP, northern Balochistan, Fata, Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir over the next 24 hours.

While local leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-N in Chitral claimed that the federal government had issued notification for opening of the Lowari Tunnel on Tuesday as per demands of local population, an official in the administration said that so far no notification had been issued. Presently, the tunnel is only opened on Friday for traffic.

Due to hardship faced by motorists on Friday when hundreds of vehicles were stuck, people have been demanding opening of the tunnel on Tuesday.

The residents of upper parts of the Kaghan valley, which were facing shortage of food following blockade of Mansehra-Naran-Jalkhad road, continued to move to Balakot, Mansehra, Abbottabad and other parts of Hazara.

The residents of twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad woke up to a chilly morning on Sunday. Light rain started in the evening and continued till late night. The Met office predicted more rains in Rawalpindi and Islamabad over next 48 hours.

Amir Yasin from Islamabad, Intikhab Hanif from Lahore and Abdul Wahid Shahwani from Khuzdar contributed to the report

Published in Dawn January 16th, 2017