Due to the ongoing heatwave that is forecast to raise day temperatures in Pakistan’s northern areas by 7-9°C above normal, the Met Office has warned of potential flash floods in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan as the rate of melting for snow and ice rises.
“It is more likely that this heatwave condition will enhance the melting rate of snow and ice, which may trigger GLOF [Glacial Lake Outburst Flooding] events/flash flood in the vulnerable area of GB and KP,” read a statement issued by the Pakistan Meteorological Department. Noting that the heatwave was expected to last 5-6 days, it said that there was a particular risk from the Shishper Lake in Hunza, which has witnessed a drastic surge in water volume in recent days.
According to the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development, the size of the Shishper glacial lake is 15 percent bigger than the size recorded for the past three years at the pre-outburst level. It said that an outburst flood in Hunza over the weekend was primarily triggered by an abrupt rise in the temperature of the northern areas, adding that the overall water volume of the Shishper glacier lake had increased by 40 percent in the past 20 days.
“The role and activities of district governments, relevant local organizations and local communities are advised to remain more vigilant and observe precautionary measures,” the Met Office added.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif ordered emergency measures to contain the damage caused by a glacial lake outburst flood from the Shisper Glacier in Hunza. The flash flood washed away Hunza’s Hassanabad Bridge, submerged houses, hundreds of kanals of agricultural land, trees, water supply channels, and two hydropower projects. The bridge’s destruction has left thousands stranded, as it was the sole road access between central and upper Hunza.
In a statement, the Prime Minister’s Office said Sharif had directed officials to prepare an alternative route for travelers, adding that he had ordered authorities to ensure the protection of lives and property of people and their evacuation to safer places.
He also directed relief teams to deliver food, medicines, and emergency supplies to the affected areas and instructed disaster management officials to determine the cost of losses incurred following the destruction caused by the flooding.