GILGIT: Eleven people, including four women and a child, were killed in an avalanche near Shunter Pass in Astore district of Gilgit-Baltistan on Saturday morning.
According to the Astore deputy commissioner, 14 people who were injured are being treated at a local government hospital.
Diamer Commissioner Altamash Janjua told Dawn that eight bodies have been recovered, while a search to recover the three remaining bodies was underway.
He added that a medical emergency has been imposed in nearby government hospitals, while relief items, food and medical equipment have been dispatched to the area.
According to the local administration and rescue officials, about 40 nomads, who were moving towards Astore from Azad Kashmir, had set up camp in the area, along with their cattle.
The victims belonged to various areas of Punjab, officials confirmed.
Pakistan Army and police personnel were assisting the local administration and rescue personnel while volunteers and residents from nearby villages of Mirmalik and Shondas were also taking part in the search operation.
Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif expressed deep sorrow and grief over the loss of precious lives in the avalanche at Shuntar Top.
The prime minister directed the relevant authorities to provide best medical treatment to the injured. He prayed to Allah Almighty for the eternal peace of the departed souls and grant of courage to the bereaved families.
Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Khalid Khurshid has expressed grief over the accident and loss of lives. He has ordered all relevant departments to monitor the rescue operation and use all available resources for the purpose.
GB opposition leader Amjad Hussain Advocate, GB Assembly Speaker Amjad Ali Zaidi, Deputy Speaker Nazir Ahmed and other ministers have also expressed sorrow and sympathies.
Every year, nomads move with their cattle from Azad Kashmir to Punjab and vice versa. They make their journey towards Punjab to avoid harsh winters in northern areas and return as the weather improves in the mountainous regions.
Aqeel Hussain, a resident of Astore, told Dawn that Shunter Pass borders the Azad Kashmir region and nomads from Punjab remain here for months to graze their cattle and then continue their journey onwards.
The areas of GB and Azad Kashmir are prone to natural disasters including avalanches in which masses of snow, ice and rocks come rapidly down from mountains.
Earlier this year in January, two boys were buried after an avalanche hit the Khayot village in upper Naltar Valley. The extreme weather events had severed the road connections between the GB region and other parts of the country for weeks.
In October 2020, an Austrian climber was killed while another climber and their local guide were seriously injured when they were hit by an avalanche while attempting to climb an unexplored and unclimbed peak in the Shimshal Valley of Hunza.In January of that year, 15 people, including five soldiers, were martyred in several avalanches in the two regions.
Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2023