Death toll crosses 100 as scale of snow disaster unfolds

Muzaffarabad/Quetta: Over 100 people are dead and many more injured as the scale of ongoing calamitous snowfall unfolded on Tuesday with most deaths confirmed in a remote valley of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) where volatile snow triggered multiple avalanches with deadly consequences.

Pakistani military has mobilised its troops and helicopters to help civil authorities evacuate stranded people, clear clogged roadways and airdrop relief items in the remote valleys ahead of a fresh spell of heavy snow expected on Friday.

Until Monday night, officials would confirm 20 deaths in AJK, but the toll soared to 75 overnight. “We can confirm 59 people have died – mostly in avalanches,” Raja Mahmood Shahid, the deputy commissioner of Neelum Valley, said on Tuesday. “Forty-six people died in the Surgan Bakwali area alone.”

According to AFP, the State Disaster Management Authority gave a death toll of 62, with another 10 people missing – and presumed dead. The state-run APP reported on the authority of AJK government sources that 75 people have died in all: 69 in Neelum Valley and one each in Kotli, Rawalakot and Sudhanoti districts.

A gigantic mass of snow rolled over a village in the Surgan Bakwali area of Neelum, burying more than two dozen houses under tons of ice. Survivors dug through the snow mass with bare hands, shovels or whatever they could find to retrieve at least 50 bodies. An unspecified number of villagers are still buried underneath.

Casualties are expected to rise once rescuers arrive by helicopter – the only way to reach the remote valley. Deputy Commissioner Shahid said the ravaged valley is not accessible by road as all land routes are clogged. It’s also perilous to fly helicopters as the snow is too unstable for them to land on.

However, he said that Army Aviation helicopters – one each from Rawalpindi and Muzaffarabad – have been sent to airdrop food and non-food items for the avalanche survivors.

AlamulKhabar Pakistan