AJK snowslide claims another life, toll tops 76

Updated 19 Jan 2020

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Samina was recovered alive after almost 18 hours from under the debris.— File photo courtesy of Umer Bacha Shangla
Samina was recovered alive after almost 18 hours from under the debris.— File photo courtesy of Umer Bacha Shangla

MUZAFFARABAD: Another young survivor of snowslide in the Neelum Valley succumbed to injuries on Saturday, pushing the death toll to 76 in the calamity-hit area towards the northeast of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) capital, officials said.

Dr Noman Manzoor, deputy medical superintendent of Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahayan Hospital — that is referred to as Combined Military Hospital Muzaffarabad — told reporters that 12-year-old Samina Bibi breathed her last in the Intensive Care Unit on Saturday.

Samina was recovered alive after almost 18 hours from under the debris after a four-storey wooden house in Bakwali village of Surgan area was struck by an avalanche.

More than two dozen people had moved to that house on Monday amid unrelenting snowfall, considering it invulnerable to avalanches, and of them at least 18 were killed.

Samina’s grandmother, two siblings, an aunt and a cousin were among the dead. However, she, her father Matiullah, mother Shahnaz Bibi, and a young brother were recovered alive with multiple injuries. Samina and her mother were shifted to Muzaffarabad owing to their critical condition while her father and brother were hospitalised in the valley.

On Friday, Shahnaz Bibi was shifted to Islamabad after her condition deteriorated. Samina, who had sustained a fracture in the bone of her right thigh, was operated here but developed some other problems in the wake of the operation that took her life, Dr Manzoor said.

Her body was dispatched to Bakwali village by an army helicopter by the afternoon, he added.

Dr Manzoor said that overall his hospital had received 23 injured survivors from the valley. Of them, two succumbed to their injuries, four were referred to Islamabad and 17 still were still being treated here, he said.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, the AJK government declared the Neelum and Leepa Valleys and Bhedi tehsil of district Haveli as calamity-hit areas in view of the heavy physical and material losses caused by the landslides and avalanches. Muzaffarabad Divisional Commissioner Chaudhry Imtiaz Ahmed was appointed relief commissioner, according to Raja Muhammad Wasim, spokesperson for the prime minister.

He said that Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider had asked the authorities concerned to not only ensure timely provision of basic necessities to the affected population but also accommodate homeless survivors in official buildings.

The authorities had also been directed to accelerate relief operation in Leepa valley and Bhedi, which were still cut off from other areas due to the recent spell of heavy snowfall, Mr Wasim said.

However, the authorities had simultaneously been advised by the premier to take the weather conditions into consideration while planning and executing rescue and relief operations in the calamity hit areas, he added.

On Saturday, AJK President Sardar Masood Khan also visited Surgan area by a helicopter and expressed condolences with the bereaved families.

The president appreciated Pakistan Army, police, local volunteers and the officials of revenue department for their contribution and cooperation in rescue, relief and rehabilitation related activities in the calamity hit areas.

According to a press release issued by the office of the Neelum deputy commissioner on Saturday, the main Neelum Valley road had been cleared of snow up to Sharda, from where a link road to Surgan area stems.

Published in Dawn, January 19th, 2020