Traffic on Karakoram Highway to remain suspended till tomorrow due to landslides in GB

Published February 22, 2024
Passengers are left stranded after traffic on the Karakoram Highway was suspended on Thursday due to landslides. — Photo provided by author
Passengers are left stranded after traffic on the Karakoram Highway was suspended on Thursday due to landslides. — Photo provided by author

The Gilgit-Baltistan government on Thursday said that traffic on the Karako­ram Highway (KKH) would remain suspended till Friday (tomorrow) after it was again shut down a day earlier due to landslides triggered by heavy snowfall and rain.

The closures announced on Wednesday had followed brief periods of restoration for light traffic earlier in the week, aggravating the challenges faced by both residents and tourists due to adverse weather.

According to a statement issued by Faizullah Faraq, the spokesperson for GB Chief Minister Haji Gulbar Khan, the KKH had been blocked due to landslides and clearing it for traffic required two days.

“Therefore, the KKH is shut for all small and large vehicles from February 22-23. Apologies for the inconvenience,” the statement added. Similar statements were also issued by Gilgit Division Assistant Commissioner Adil Ali and Diamer deputy commissioner.

The road blockages have exacerbated the difficulties being faced by the people as the fuel supply to the region has been impacted and the cost of fresh produce has risen. Dozens of cars have also been left stranded at various points of the KKH.

GB CM’s spokesperson Faraq said Baltistan Road, Gilgit-Chitral Road and Astore Road had been opened for traffic.

He added that the KKH was reopened for smaller vehicles a day ago but was closed for traffic again due to further landslides.

The spokesperson said that the main artery would be opened for traffic on February 23 after a “complete cleanup”. Faraq further said that the stranded passengers and tourists had been evacuated to their relevant locations via smaller vehicles.

Earlier this week, intermittent rain and snowfall caused landslides that blocked major roads of GB, including the KKH and Baltistan Road at multiple locations.

On Tuesday, the KKH was partially reopened for traffic while the Baltistan Road remained closed for the third consecutive day. Thousands of people from across GB were left stranded at multiple locations due to the closure of Baltistan Road.

Link roads in KP’s Shangla, Kohistan and Battagram were also blocked due to heavy showers, with several vehicles also damaged in landslides.

However, the next day, the KKH and Baltistan Road were again shut down due to rain-triggered landslides. While clearance operations were underway using heavy machinery, the Baltistan Road witnessed its fourth consecutive day of closure.

Aerial connections between Islamabad, Skardu and Gilgit faced disruptions for the third day. People in the region’s upper areas were in the grip of cold waves and faced power outages and communication disruptions.­

Earlier, officials had reported that rain in lower areas and snowfall in upper areas began on Monday morning and continued until evening.

After prolonged dry weather conditions, GB has started receiving snowfall and rain. The GB government had issued a weather alert predicting heavy rainfall and snow from February 19 to 27. Deputy commissioners have also instruc­ted the departments to remain alert for emergency situations.

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