GILGIT TRIBUNE

Voice of the Mountain People

Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Hunza landslide death toll rises to 13

Posted by Gilgit Tribune on January 5, 2010

By Zulfiqar Ali Khan

HUNZA, Jan 5: Death toll in the Monday’s disaster at Atabad rose to 13.

About 30 people are still missing. Rescue work was resumed early in the morning on Tuesday.

National Disaster management Chairman Gen (retd) Farooq Ahmed, Force Commander Gilgit-Baltistan Maj Gen Bajwa, Gilgit-Baltistan Assembly Speaker Wazir Baig and member Mutabiat Shah, Chief Secretary Babaer Yaqoob Fateh Mohammad and other officials reached the affected area.

Thirteen bodies mostly women and children were laid to rest at Aliabad, main town of Huinza on Tuesday amid tears. The bodies were recovered from the rubble and efforts are on to rescue other people still under the rubble, by the local volunteers and rescue workers who are racing against time to rescue others.

The massive landslide, caused by shearing off a portion of the mountain, hit Atabad, a small hamlet, about twenty kilometres from main Hunza, damaging over 40 houses, a community centre, a school, cattle pens, trees and orchards, causing panic in Hunza-Nagar.

The boulders and debris rolling down the slope blocked the water flow in Hunza River, forming a lake that would threaten the low-lying villages and submerge many villages in Gojal, upper Hunza.

The landslide has damaged over two kilometres stretch of the Karakuram Highway, disrupting all kinds of communication links and traffic between Gojal and Hunza. About 170 families have been evacuated from the village to safer places.

A thick cloud of dust blanketed the whole Hunza, Nagar and Gojal valleys.

People of Atabad village had noticed shearing off the rocks, with cracks developing fast on it in 1994 when a high magnitude of earthquake jolted the village.  Later the local authorities declared the area dangerous without making any alternative arrangement of relocation and rehabilitation of the inhabitants. The continuous geological movement had developed huge gullies in the village and surrounding mountains. The people from the dangerous zone of the village were evacuated some days ago.

The residents had conveyed to the authorities concerned about the danger.

Experts had suggested rehabilitation of the residents to some alternative area, as living in such a hazard-prone environment could result in disaster anytime.

But the local administration not responded to the concerns of the people. Had they taken the issue seriously the loss of life could have been avoided, a volunteer working with a civil society organisation said requesting not to be named.

The residents had boycotted November 2009 elections for Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly as no candidate – either ruling party or from other parties – had taken their problem seriously.

A delegation from the village had met Governor Qamar Zaman Kaira at Karimabad Hunza to inform him about the danger. He had assured them of help but no concrete steps were taken.

Posted in Economy, Environment, GECA, Gilgit-Baltistan, Government, Hunza-Gojal, Natural Resources, Society, Water | 1 Comment »