A 70-year-old man was pulled out alive from under the snow in Gilgit-Baltistan’s Astore district on Sunday, nearly 28 hours after an avalanche struck the valley, rescue officials said.

Eight people, including four women and a child, were killed in the avalanche on Saturday morning. Officials said the victims were nomads, who were moving towards Astore from Azad Kashmir, and had set up camp in the area along with their cattle. They all belonged to various areas of Punjab.

Speaking to Dawn.com on Sunday, Wazir Asad Ali, the media officer for Astore Rescue 1122, said that officials had managed to rescue the remaining three people and had shifted them to the DHQ Hospital Astore.

He said 70-year-old Muhammad Hussain was the last person to be rescued, almost 28 hours after the avalanche hit the valley.

“All three rescued persons are being treated and are stable now,” Ali added. The official further said that the rescue operation had ended and the bodies were being sent to Punjab.

Ali added that the Pakistan Army and police had assisted the local administration and rescue personnel in the rescue and search operation.

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.

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