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Mounting Death Toll

by Newsweek Pakistan

File Photo. Farooq Naeem—AFP

Extreme weather-related casualties rise across Pakistan, as country grapples with cold wave

The total number of people killed as a result of extreme weather conditions crossed 90 on Tuesday, as large parts of Pakistan continue to suffer from a crippling cold wave that has caused roof collapses, avalanches and heavy rains.

The chief of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Disaster Management Authority told media that 49 bodies were recovered on Tuesday from collapsed buildings in Pakistan-administered Kashmir’s Muzaffarabad district. “Rescue operations are under way with the help of the Pakistan Army,” he said, while warning that the severe weather conditions had slowed down the pace of the work.

Earlier, authorities had said 12 people had been buried alive under several separate instances of avalanches in the Neelum Valley of Pakistan-administered Kashmir. The region and its surroundings have borne the brunt of the inclement weather, with reports noting deaths due to several instances of avalanches. In Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan’s Meteorological Department has reported near-continuous rain- and snowfall over the weekend, paralyzing normal life and breaking records. An emergency has been declared in Hunza and Nagar.

Advisories issued by officials have cautioned people against traveling on mountainous routes in the near future due to the threat of landslides.

In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, no deaths have been reported but authorities say four houses have collapsed and at least six people injured due to excessive rains. The Karakoram Highway has also been shut down due to landslides.

In Punjab province, authorities reported that around seven people had died in various incidents caused by rain over the past two days. Houses collapsing due to heavy rainfall and traffic accidents due to poor visibility conditions caused the bulk of the casualties, they added.

In Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest but least populated province, 22 people were killed in 24 hours alone as heavy snowfall resulted in the roofs of several houses collapsing. The excessive snow—some parts of the province are currently under six inches—has also forced closures of many highways, causing headaches for travelers and transporters. A state of emergency has been declared in Mastung, Qila Abdullah, Kech, Ziarat, Harnai and Pishin districts of the province.

Paramilitary Levies officials have said over 500 passengers were stranded in the Kan Mehtarzai area of Killa Saifullah district, as snowstorms swept the roads, burying cars on the National Highway.

Sindh has also suffered the cold wave but experienced relatively less rain, resulting in one person dying in Sukkur due to heavy rains.

Pakistan has been in the grip of a record-breaking cold wave for nearly three weeks, prompting the government to extend winter vacations by a week in Punjab province. In Peshawar, the temperature dropped to -1°C after 36 years. Skardu, meanwhile, hit -21°C in the last week of 2019.

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