Debris is being removed with the help of an excavator from the Karakoram Highway near Chilas.—Dawn
Debris is being removed with the help of an excavator from the Karakoram Highway near Chilas.—Dawn

• At least 27, including 18 children, killed in rain-related incidents in KP
• Many stranded in GB due to road closures
• Quetta freezes, cold wave sweeps across province

PESHAWAR / GILGIT / QUETTA: The death toll from torrential rain and snowfall in different parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa reached 27, including 18 children, on Sunday.

Besides, at least 38 people, inc­luding 20 children, were injured in several incidents related to rain and snowfall over the past two days, according to the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) of KP.

Meanwhile, major roads rem­ained closed in Gilgit-Baltistan, leaving thousands stranded in the region. Power and water supply and communication services were also severely hit in many areas.

On the other hand, Quetta and other parts of Balochistan remained in the grip of freezing wea­ther, with sub-zero tem­peratures driving people indoors and thinning traffic on roads. In KP, rain and snowfall in most areas continued for the third consecutive day, destroying 33 houses and partially damaging 129 others. Similarly, 59 cattle heads have also perished in these rain-related incidents.

According to the Met Office, 89 millimetres of rain was recorded in Lower Dir in the previous 24 hours, 54 in Dir Upper, 38 in Chitral, and 20 in Malam Jabba, Swat.

Six people were killed in Khyber, five in Bajaur, four each in Malakand and Swat, three in Lower Dir, and one each in Lakki Marwat and Mardan.

Most damages to houses were reported in North Waziristan, with 22 houses fully damaged, followed by three houses destroyed in Malakand and two each in Swat and Upper Dir.

Similarly, 27 houses were partially damaged in Bajaur, 16 in Malakand, 20 in Khyber, 12 in Lower Dir, nine in Orakzai, eight in Charsadda, and six each in Upper Dir, Mardan and Buner.

GB roads remain blocked

In Gilgit-Baltistan, the Karakoram Highway, Baltistan Road and other major roads remained blocked for the second consecutive day on Sunday at multiple locations, rendering thousands of tourists stranded at various 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 the Kohistan, Gilgit-Diamer, Gilgit-Hunza, and Nagar sections.

Mushtaq Ahmed, a resident of Nagar, recounted to Dawn how his family’s journey from Islamabad to Gilgit-Baltistan was halted in the Besham area of Shangla district due to the blockage of Karakoram Highway in Kohistan, leading to significant hardships including lack of accommodation, food and basic amenities.

The situation is worse in remote areas where mobile and internet services are unavailable, forcing people to endure extremely cold weather without food or shelter.

Faizullah Faraq, a spokesperson for the GB government, said efforts were underway to remove debris from the Karakoram Highway, Baltistan Road and other roads.

He said the rescue of stranded passengers had also been started with the support of the Pakistan Army and the civil armed force Gilgit-Baltistan Scouts.

“The Karakoram Highway is blocked at 35 places in Kohistan and Diamer areas, causing thousands of travellers to be stranded in the severe cold. The communication system has also been damaged and dozens of vehicles were hit by rocks,” he said.

Mr Faraq commended the role of Gilgit-Baltistan Scouts in helping stranded passengers and providing them with necessary shelter and sustenance. The body of a passenger who perished in a car accident on the Karakoram Highway on Friday in the Patan area was transported by the scouts to the Thalchi area of Diamer on foot, he said.

Balochistan situation

Meanwhile, heavy snowfall has brought daily life to a standstill in Quetta and other northern parts of Balochistan, with critical highways and inter-provincial roads being blocked since Saturday, cutting off many areas from district headquarters.

The region has been hit by chilly Siberian winds, lashing Quetta, Pishin, Ziarat, Kan Mehtarzai, Kalat, Mastung, Muslim Bagh, and Khanozai, among others, plunging temperatures below freezing.

Quetta experienced a minimum temperature of minus 6 degrees Celsius, while other areas like Kalat and Ziarat recorded temperatures as low as minus 7 degrees.

The cold weather has led to water pipelines freezing and bursting, and residents are facing the brunt of power outages and low gas supplies, marking one of the coldest days in the province. The meteorological office anticipates further drops in the mercury, particularly at night.

The province’s communication systems have also been severely affected, leaving most cities in northern Balochistan without internet and WhatsApp connectivity.

Despite the sunshine on Sunday, Quetta remained under the influence of the cold Siberian winds for the past 24 hours, forcing people to stay at their homes. The city’s business centres and markets presented a deserted look as most shops were closed and traffic was thin.

Snowfall began on Thursday night, continuing sporadically in Chaman, Qila Saifullah, Ziarat, Pishin, Barshore, Toba Kakari, Kalat, Mastung, Sanjavi, Zhob and many other towns. The Ziarat valley has received around 10 inches of snow.

Efforts by the National Highway Authority (NHA) and the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) of Balochistan to clear the Zhob-Dera Ismail Khan-Islamabad highway and other inter-district roads are ongoing. Officials have asked citizens to avoid unnecessary travel following snowfall due to hazardous road conditions.

In Gwadar, although the flood situation has seen slight improvements with no new rainfall, accumulated floodwater remains a challenge. Local authorities are employing heavy-duty pumps to dewater many areas.

Meanwhile, the coastal highway has been reopened for small vehicles while repairs to damaged roads were underway.

According to APP, nine highways and motorways affected by rainfall, snowfall and landsliding in Balochistan have been reopened. Que­tta-Chaman, Qila Saif­ullah-Loralai, Lakpass-Noshki-Nokundi, Zhob-Kuchlak-Dan­asar, Quetta-Sibbi-Jacob­abad, Karachi-Khuzdar-Que­tta, Gwadar-Khuzdar-Wangu Hill, Coastal Highway and Hoshab-Naag-Surab national highways have been opened for all kinds of traffic.

Behram Baloch in Gwadar also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, March 4th, 2024

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