(CLOCKWISE from top left) Gwadar residents use a boat to cross a flooded street; a car is seen stuck in a mudslide on the KKH, near Chilas; and, rescue workers evacuate children after their home was flooded in the Batkhela area of Malakand district, on Saturday.—AFP / Rescue 1122
(CLOCKWISE from top left) Gwadar residents use a boat to cross a flooded street; a car is seen stuck in a mudslide on the KKH, near Chilas; and, rescue workers evacuate children after their home was flooded in the Batkhela area of Malakand district, on Saturday.—AFP / Rescue 1122

GILGIT/PESHAWAR/QUETTA: Heavy snowfall and rain have brought life to a standstill in Gilgit-Baltistan, many parts of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, with Karakoram Highway and other thoroughfares rendered impassable due to landslides and flashfloods.

Adverse weather has led to the cancellation of PIA flights between Islamabad and the cities of Gilgit and Skardu.

Heavy rains and snowfall continue to lash large swathes of KP for a second day on Saturday, resulting in the deaths of at least 22 people and injuries to 25 others.

Similarly, rains also wreaked havoc in Gwadar and Kech districts of Makran, where hundreds of houses have collapsed during the current spell of rains, rendering a large number of families homeless.

Heavy rains also lashed Noshki and Chagai districts, while several districts in Balochistan were completely cut off from other parts of the province due to damaged or flooded roads.

Moreover, thousands of travellers, including families, patients, and children, heading to or from Gilgit-Baltistan are stranded in several areas. Not only Baltistan Road but also Ghizer-Shandur Road have been rendered impassable due to landslides at some points.

According to the GB Disaster Management Authority (GBDMA), heavy rain and snowfall in upper areas of the region started on Friday evening. Landslides triggered by rains have blocked the Karakoram Highway at several points, including at the Kohistan, Gilgit-Diamer, Gilgit-Hunza and Nagar sections.

Disruptions were also reported on Baltistan Road due to rockfalls and Astore Valley Road after heavy snowfall and rain.

Districts including Skardu, Ghizer, Astore, Ghanche, Shigar, Nagar, Kharmang, Hunza and Gilgit are now cut off, leaving residents isolated and halting daily activities.

However, despite the challenges, no casualties or significant damages have been reported thus far from any area of the region.

Officials said the ongoing inclement weather is hindering road restoration efforts. The Gilgit-Baltistan government has issued a weather alert, advising against travel until conditions improve.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Meteorological Department anticipates further rainfall and snowfall across the region until Sunday.

GB Chief Minister Haji Gulbar Khan has instructed the district administrations to speed up road restoration efforts and ensure the welfare of stranded travellers.

Besides, winter vacation for schools in the upper areas of Skardu, Shigar, Kharmang and Ghanche districts has been extended to March 10. These areas received up to six inches of snow and temperatures have dropped to sub-zero levels.

Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2024

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