Flash floods wreak havoc on AJK village; 22 killed

Updated July 16, 2019

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People collecting belongings from their houses damaged in the floods. — AP
People collecting belongings from their houses damaged in the floods. — AP

MUZAFFARABAD: At least 22 people, 18 of them from a Tableeghi Jamaat, were killed and seven others injured after a cloudburst triggered flash floods that swept away mosques and houses besides damaging shops and other property in the Neelum Valley of Azad Jammu and Kashmir late Sunday evening, officials said.

In all, around 50 houses and shops were badly damaged and 100 others partially affected by the raging water channel that passes through Lesva Bala village, 70km northeast of AJK’s capital, according to Muzaffarabad DIG Sardar Ilyas Khan.

The downpour also left at least 12 vehicles missing, he said.

About the victims, the officer said 18 of the deceased belonging to a Tableeghi Jamaat had come from Faisalabad, while all other victims were local residents. The mosque, where the Tableeghi Jamaat men had been staying, was swept away.

Most victims were staying at a mosque when it was swept away

Two other mosques in the area were also badly damaged, he added.

“The area is mountainous and does not have a landline or mobile phone facility, which is why it has been difficult to ascertain the exact details,” said the DIG while speaking to Dawn.

Deputy Commissioner Raja Mahmood Shahid and SP Asif Durrani have been overseeing a rescue operation.

None of the bodies was recovered either from the raging Lesva water channel or the Neelum River as chances of the victims’ survival were slim.

In a message from Spain, AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider had expressed deep sorrow and grief over the tragedy and had directed the administration to leave no stone unturned to recover bodies and provide relief to other survivors.

According to a statement issued before AJK Minister for Civil Defence and Disaster Management Ahmed Raza Qadri left for the affected area, relief camps will be established for the survivors.

The government-run news agency APP quoted the Neelam Valley’s central police control room as saying that 130 houses, 70 shops, six mosques and 15 vehicles were perished following the mammoth landslide, as a big part of the thickly populated Lesva village slid and buried 22 people alive besides injuring at least seven villagers.

Rescue teams from Athmuqaam district headquarters besides from capital town of Muzaffarabad rushed to the area to evacuate the affected people and recover the bodies of the ill-fated inmates, said official in charge of the control room.

Also teams of the disaster management authority, police, health department, civil defence volunteers and locals participated in the rescue work in the Lesva village bazaar that was washed away.

AJK Chief Secretary Mathar Niaz Rana, AJK Inspector General Police Salahuddin Khan, DIG Police HQs, Muzaffarabad commissioner and other senior officials, too, reached the area to assess the situation and supervise the rescue operation.

The seriously injured were shifted to Muzaffarabad Combined Military Hospital and other nearby hospitals where they were being provided with medical treatment, according to the Athmuqaam control room.

Six killed in accidents

Also half a dozen people, including a woman and her daughter, were killed in separate road accidents in Muzaffarabad and Mirpur on Monday.

A Muzaffarabad-bound passenger jeep coming from Sariyan Kutla skidded off the main Neelum Road and fell on the riverbank near Yadgar, leaving four people dead and an equal number of passengers injured. The deceased included a woman and her daughter.

In the other accident, two persons were killed and another was injured in head-on collision between a motorcycle and a car on the outskirts of Mirpur.

Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2019