Seven killed as landslide hits three houses in AJK village

August 18, 2019

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Rescue teams search for bodies of landslide victims in Poonch district of AJK.—Photo by writer
Rescue teams search for bodies of landslide victims in Poonch district of AJK.—Photo by writer

MUZAFFARABAD: Seven people were killed, five of them children below the age of 12, and two others were injured after a landslide triggered by heavy rains hit three houses in a mountain village of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) early on Saturday, officials said.

The incident occurred at about 5am in a hamlet known as Pothi Chapriyan Hiloti, close to which runs a water channel built for an under-construction hydropower project in the area, said Raja Pervez Hameed, the station house officer of Hajira, a subdivision of Poonch district.

Due to heavy rains, the channel was brimming with water which had accumulated at the landslide-affected part of the mountain, he said. The pressure of the accumulated water and heavy downpour triggered the landslide and the mudflow engulfed three houses along its path.

All three houses, owned by three brothers, were destroyed, the SHO said.

As the houses were struck by the mudflow, trapped residents raised alarm, following which the neighbours rushed to rescue them.

Zubaida, 50, wife of Riaz, and her children Zaheer, Anam, Malaika, Tayyiba and Laiba were recovered alive. However, Zubaida and Zaheer were injured while the others had suffered bruises, Mr Hameed said. Zubaida was admitted to Rawlakot district headquarters hospital due to her critical condition.

The remaining seven people were buried alive beneath tons of mudflow, and their bodies were recovered after a hectic search operation that concluded at 4pm, Mr Hameed said.

The deceased were identified as Sobia, 40, wife of Raj Mohammad, her daughters Tasmiya, 11, Alishba, nine, Asma, seven, Mahjabeen, four, one and half years old Rufi and Shoaib Maqsood, 18, a nephew of Mr Mohammad.

Poonch Deputy Commis-sioner Mirza Arshad Mehmood, Senior Superin-tendent of Police Chaudhry Zulqarnain Sarfraz and a local army commander supervised the rescue operation, carried out by policemen, army personnel and locals.

Ironically, as the area is inaccessible by road, no heavy machinery could be taken there to remove earth. Rescuers had to use shovels to remove earth, Mr Hameed said.

Later, the deceased were buried in a local graveyard.

In a statement from the United States where he reached on Saturday on a weeklong tour, AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider expressed grief over the loss of innocent lives in the incident.

He directed the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA) and the Poonch district administration to take immediate steps for rehabilitation of the survivors.

They should also be provided ration and other essential commodities, he said, according to a press release.

Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2019