AJK landslides death toll rises to 69 as search and rescue efforts continue

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A man guides an excavator operator as they clear a snow-covered road in Neelum on Jan 14. — Reuters
A man guides an excavator operator as they clear a snow-covered road in Neelum on Jan 14. — Reuters

The death toll from snow-related incidents in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) rose to 69 on Wednesday, bringing the total number of casualties from weather-related incidents across the country to 98.

According to Neelum Valley Deputy Commissioner Raja Shahid Mehmood, the deaths were reported from villages in the mountainous areas of Dhakki and Chaknar located along the Line of Control.

Mehmood added that the number of injured persons had also risen to 94.

Further, two more deaths were reported in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) after a two-and-a-half-year-old boy and a young girl were killed in an avalanche, said the provincial disaster management authority.

The authority added that three others were also injured after a house collapsed. In addition, at least 80 livestock animals were killed in a similar incident, the authority said.

Meanwhile, relief and rescue efforts are currently underway in Neelum Valley. On the directives of the prime minister, helicopters will distribute rations, blankets, medicines and other supplies to residents of the valley on Wednesday, officials said.

In Balochistan, the death toll remains unchanged at 20. However, dozens have been injured during the past four days in the wake of unprecedented snowfall in the region, said officials from the provincial disaster management authority.

Work is also under way in the province to restore road operations. Officials said that the Quetta-Karachi highway and the Quetta-Iran highway have been opened for light traffic for the time being.

No end in sight

On Tuesday, avalanches continued to sweep through Neelum Valley swallowing whole hundreds of buildings and killing dozens of residents. In response to this, the country’s top civil and military leadership directed relevant authorities to immediately provide humanitarian assistance to the affected people.

Majority of the deaths from the current spell of a westerly wave weather system across the country have been reported from AJK, followed by Balochistan.

Officials had said the figure could further go up as some areas in Azad Kashmir were still inaccessible due to heavy snowfall, while weather pundits forecast another spell of snowfall starting on Friday.

In a statement, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) had said Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa expressed grief over the loss of precious lives in AJK and Balochistan and had directed the concerned officials to extend assistance to the civil administration in carrying out rescue and relief operations.