Prime Minister Imran Khan visits affected areas to personally monitor progress of rescue and relief operations
Authorities on Wednesday recovered five more bodies from Neelum Valley in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, as the death toll from an avalanche that struck the region a day earlier climbed to 73.
In a statement, the State Disaster Management Authority said that the avalanche had struck 22 shops and over 100 houses, leaving around 91 houses completely destroyed. Another 101 buildings were partially damaged, it added.
The overall death toll due to flooding, heavy snowfall and adverse weather has passed 100, with Pakistan-administered Kashmir and Balochistan bearing the brunt of the tragedies. In addition to the 73 people killed in the Neelum Valley avalanche, at least 12 others died in various other incidents. Officials have also reported 31 deaths from Balochistan. Punjab province has reported at least seven deaths. Authorities say the death toll may rise even more, as several people are still missing and believed to be buried under the snow.
“Most of the dead are women and children,” a spokesman for the Balochistan Disaster Management Authority told private broadcaster Geo News.
The cold wave sweeping Pakistan has caused several avalanches and landslides in the country’s north, with Pakistan-administered Kashmir suffering the worst.
“The severe snowfalls and landslides in Azad Kashmir have caused misery and deaths,” Prime Minister Imran Khan posted on Twitter on Tuesday night. “I have asked the NDMA, the military and all our federal ministers to immediately provide all humanitarian assistance to affected people,” he added.
The prime minister also personally visited the affected region on Wednesday afternoon to monitor the latest situation. During his trip, he was briefed about relief efforts and ongoing rescue operations.
In a statement, the Inter-Services Public Relations cited Chief of the Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa as expressing grief over the loss of lives due to snow-slides in Pakistan-administered Kashmir and Balochistan. It said that the Army chief had directed the armed forces to continue their assistance to civil administration for rescue and relief operations.
Another spell of heavy snowfall has been forecast to begin from Friday; senior officials have vowed to fulfill all relief responsibilities before that to prevent further disaster.