Harsh win­ter hits Pak­istan, In­dia, Afghanista­n, 140 die

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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.

As­so­ci­ated Press

↑ Work­ers clear snow in Kan­gan, north of Sri­na­gar, Kash­mir, on Tues­day.

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