Winter’s blow

At least 14 people were killed in an avalanche in Chitral; 20-year snowfall record smashed in Chitral; Avalanche causes destruction in Chitral; Floods warning for Chitral, are some of the headlines that newspapers have carried in past two days. The situation is looking grim as 14 people have already died due an avalanche in Chitral’s SerShal area and some flash floods have run havoc in some places as well. The forecast from the MET Department does not give a hopeful picture, as more snow and flash floods are expected in coming days.

Chitral Scouts Commandant Col Nizamuddin Shah has told media that the bodies of 14 killed by avalanche had been recovered from the debris, including six women, six children and two men. Nine people injured in the natural disaster have been shifted to Civil Hospital Garam Chashma. A Frontier Constabulary soldier died, and six others were wounded when a Chitral scout post was affected by a second avalanche in Chitral’sPishotan area near the Pak-Afghan border. At least 25 houses have been buried, and five houses have been destroyed. As heavy snowfall was blocking the main roads, the injured were transported to smaller medical centres in the area as they could not be taken to District Headquarters Hospital for treatment. Chitral has already received four feet deep snowfall, and a prediction of further rain and snow have rung the alarm bells for thousands of citizens of the area. The weather has also delayed the evacuation operations.

A rescue operation has been launched by the army in coordination with the FC and PDMA, but it’s unclear how many people have been affected by the avalanche as yet. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has activated the National Emergency Operations Centre to coordinate rescue and relief efforts in the avalanche-hit area. The NDMA is coordinating the provision of a helicopter for the operations and has also asked the National Highways Authority to fully mobilise its machinery on all critical sections for road clearance. Although an avalanche is a natural disaster, yet precautionary measure could have been taken to minimise the damage. According to the releases, although some people had been shifted to safe locations, some had been left behind who were eventually struck by the calamity. Although it is difficult for people to leave everything behind and move to makeshift camps, the authorities should educate the people towards such tragedies and work to minimise the damages. Moreover, the reality of climate change needs to be embraced to its fullest and Pakistan should do all it can to reduce the problem. The country has seen wayward weather patterns in past few months, and the authorities cannot continue to ignore these warnings.

Reporter. Winter’s blow. Daily Times, February 8, 2017. 

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