10 killed in avalanche in Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan region

PTI, May 28, 2023, 9:29 AM IST

Islamabad: At least 10 people of a nomadic tribe were killed and 25 injured when an avalanche hit the Gilgit-Baltistan region in Pakistan on Saturday, police said.

According to the police, 10 people, including three women were killed in the calamity in the Shunter Top area of Astore district in the mountainous region.

“Rescue work was launched with the help of locals and later the Pakistan Army soldiers also joined the operation,” the police said.

As many as 25 people of Gujjar family were travelling along with their cattle from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to Astore when they were hit by the avalanche, Dawn News quoted rescue officials as saying.

The injured persons were taken to District Headquarters (DHQ) Hospital Astore, where the condition of 12 was critical.

Earlier, Deputy Inspector General of Police for the Diamer-Astore Division, Tufail Mir, said rescue teams were facing challenges in reaching the affected area due to its remote location and difficult terrain.

Force Command Northern Areas, a military formation of the Pakistan Army, provided helicopter service, relief items and paramedical staff to assist with the rescue operation, but they could not be flown “to the site due to bad weather conditions”.

The district administration is closely monitoring the rescue operation while an emergency had been imposed in DHQ Hospital Astore and Combined Military Hospital Skardu, the official said.

Chief Secretary Mohiuddin Wani confirmed the mishap and said rescue teams were working in the affected area.

Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Khalid Khurshid Khan expressed deep sorrow over the loss of lives and instructed local authorities to initiate rescue operations.

He called upon the secretary interior, director general of GBDMA (Gilgit Baltistan Disaster Management Authority) and other officials to look into the incident immediately.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in a tweet expressed deep sorrow over the loss of precious lives in the avalanche, adding that such incidents were increasing in Pakistan due to the effects of climate change.

“The whole world has to fulfil its responsibility to protect developing countries like Pakistan from these harmful effects,” he said.

Five out of 14 world peaks above the height of 8,000 metres are located in the region. In addition to this, Gilgit-Baltistan has over 7,000 glaciers and often witnesses avalanches, landslides, and glacial lake outbursts.

In a tragic incident in 2012, at least 129 Pakistan Army soldiers and 11 civilians lost their lives when a massive avalanche hit their camp in the Gayari area, some 300 kilometres northeast of Skardu district.

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