Harsh winter hits Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, 140 die
Avalanches, flooding and harsh winter weather have killed more than 140 people across Pakistan, Afghanistan and India in recent days, officials said on Tuesday, as authorities struggled to reach people stranded by heavy snowfall.
At least 93 people died and 76 were injured across Pakistan − with several still missing − while a further 39 were killed in Afghanistan, according to officials in both countries.
In neighbouring India, at least 10 people were killed after several avalanches hit the northern-part of Kashmir.
A senior Indian police official said five soldiers were among the 10 killed near the border between India and Pakistan.
Forecasts suggest more harsh weather is on the way.
Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) region of Pakistan was the worst-hit area, with 62 people killed and 10 others missing, the State Disaster Management Authority said in a statement.
In the picturesque but conflict-riven Neelum Valley, heavy snow fall triggered several avalanches, including one that killed at least 19 people.
“An avalanche hit their village, 10 people are still missing,” the SDMA said.
Frequent avalanches and landslides occur in Kashmir during the winter, often blocking roads and leaving communities isolated.
Authorities have shuttered schools, while several highways and roads were closed across the country’s northern mountainous areas, according to officials.
“The severe snowfalls and landslides in AJK have caused misery & deaths,” tweeted Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, referring to the part of Kashmir controlled by Islamabad.
To the southeast, in Balochistan province, at least 31 people had been killed in separate weather-related incidents.
“Most of those who died were women and children,” said Mohammad Younus, an official with the provincial disaster management authority, adding that hundreds remained stranded.
Over 32 snow slides and avalanches were reported in the vicinity of army posts in Jammu and Kashmir in the last 48 hours in which two Army soldiers and a Border Security Force (BSF) trooper lost their lives, the Indian Army said on Tuesday.
However, Shriram Ambarker, SP, Kupwara, said five Army jawans were buried under the snow while four of them had succumbed.
Five civilians were also killed in an avalanche in Ganderbal district. Two bodies were found on Monday night and three were found on Tuesday morning. The bodies were handed over to their relatives.
Indian Army also stated that major tragedy and losses were averted by alert troops in north Kashmir and Ladakh region. Over the past 48 hours there has been unprecedented heavy snowfall in the higher reaches of Gurez, Bandipur, Kupwara, Nawgam and Baramulla areas of North Kashmir where Indian Army troops are deployed.
The temperature reported in the areas of deployment is minus 57 degrees Celsius in North Glacier in Siachen and fresh snowfall recorded Gurez Sector was 51 cms, Machhil Sector was 117 cms, Keran and Tangdhar Sector were 56 cms, Naogaon Sector was 122 cms and in Uri and Gulmarg sectors were 61 cms.
In Tangdhar, seven soldiers who were trapped under a snow slide were safely rescued by soldiers of the rescue team. Similarly, in Gulmarg sector, seven soldiers whose shelter came under a snow slide were rescued.
In Nawgam sector, four BSF personnel affected by a snow slide was rescued however one constable suffered a cardiac arrest and died.
In an another major snow slide in the Machhil sector, dedicated rescue teams are currently engaged in rescue of five soldiers out of which four soldiers have been pulled out of the snow.
In Afghanistan, more than 300 houses were either destroyed or partially damaged throughout the country, said Ahmad Tamim Azimi a spokesman for the Natural Disaster Management Authority.
“A cold snap, heavy snowfall and rains that started two weeks ago have caused damage,” he said, adding that most casualties were caused after roofs collapsed under thick snow.
Hardest hit were southern Kandahar, Helmand, Zabul and western Herat provinces.
In Herat, seven people − all members of the same family and including children − died when their roof caved in, Azimi added.
Harsh winters often take a heavy toll in mountainous Afghanistan, and the country remains poor despite billions of dollars in aid from the international community.
Over 32 snow slides and avalanches were reported in the vicinity of army posts in Jammu and Kashmir in the last 48 hours in which two army soldiers and a Border Security Force member lost their lives, the Indian army said.
↑ Workers clear snow in Kangan, north of Srinagar, Kashmir, on Tuesday.