MUZAFFARABAD: At least three persons drowned and a fourth one was recovered with critical wounds in two different incidents in Neelum valley of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) on Monday, as torrential rains continued to play havoc with road infrastructure and properties in some parts of the state, officials said.

Elsewhere, four persons were injured in rain-related incidents in the jurisdiction of Muzaffarabad district, they added.

Akhtar Ayoub, disaster management officer in Neelum district, told Dawn by telephone that Safeeda Bibi, 35, and her two children – Faizan, 10, and Adiba, 5 – were walking along the Rantha Galli stream near Kutton village of Jagran area when a mudslide hit and pushed them into the raging torrent.

Miraculously, the violent stream threw the young boy towards the bank after some 150 metres from where villagers rescued him in critical condition. He was rushed to CMH Muzaffarabad after preliminary treatment at a local facility.

The body of the woman was recovered by villagers some 500 metres away, but the young girl could not be found till late evening, Mr Ayoub said.

The Rantha Galli stream merges into the roaring Jagran nullah after one or so kilometres away from the site of the tragedy and after seven kilometres from there the Jagran nullah merges into Neelum River in the town of Kundal Shahi.

Mr Ayoub feared that the girl’s body might have been flown by Jagran nullah into the swollen Neelum River.

He said as a result of heavy rains, almost all water channels in most parts of the valley had flooded, posing serious risks to the adjacent properties and inhabitants.

In the other incident, a 60 years old man, identified as Mir Abdullah, drowned in a water channel in Lawat village when he was returning home from a mosque after Maghrib prayers.

The man slipped in the mud and fell into the stream. Though fellow villagers pulled him out of the channel in a short while but did not survive, Mr Ayoub said.

Unrelenting rains had also triggered landslides along the main Neelum valley road at several places, blocking traffic beyond Shaikh Bela, some151km northeast of here and 5km before the town of Kel, he said, adding that the highways department personnel were braving harsh weather to keep it open for traffic, he said.

In response to a question, Mr Ayoub said at least 15,000 tourists were still present in the valley and they had been advised not to leave their respective accommodations until the weather condition improved.

Meanwhile, the hoteliers and local residents in the valley had offered free accommodation and free meals to tourists who had run out of money due to prolonged stay in the area.

In Muzaffarabad, Saeed Qureshi, a senior director at the State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA), told Dawn that four persons, identified as Mubashar Hussain, Zahida Bibi, Mehar Ali Shah and Noor Hussain, had sustained injuries in rain-related incidents in Patikka areas of district Muzaffarabad. In the same area, he said, three houses and a cattle pen were destroyed and as many houses were partially damaged by heavy rains.

Elsewhere, 11 houses were partially damaged in district Bagh and one house was partially damaged in district Jhelum Valley, he said.

Of the inter-provincial roads, Mr Qureshi said the Muzaffarabad-Islamabad road via Kohala was open for all kinds of traffic but the Muzaffarabad-Mansehra road via Lohar Galli was closed due to the huge landslide at Lohar Galli.

However, small vehicles were being diverted to the alternative route of Shaheed Galli to travel to Mansehra and beyond, he said.

Published in Dawn, April 16th, 2024

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