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Double whammy: Floods wreak havoc in Darel Valley of G-B

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ISLAMABAD / GILGIT: Flash floods triggered by rain have swept away homes, farm animals and orchards in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B)’s Darel Valley, leaving many families homeless.
HunzaNews, July 6th, 2014.

The floods hit villages in the picturesque valley at about 2:00am on Friday, an hour after armed men stormed the police station, tied up police personnel and looted arms and ammunition.

According to sources, the situation is quite disturbing.

“The gushing water swept away 73 houses, partially damaged another 102 houses and displaced cattle in the valley,” Tahir Rana, programme manager at Al-Khidmat Foundation told That.

The charity organisation sent its teams to the valley to assess the damage and organise relief efforts.

The flood, triggered by heavy rainfall, was followed by an earthquake which measured 5.3 on the Richter scale that struck the region about 1:45am.

“At least six houses have been washed away by the flood while 35 others have been partially damaged,” said Umar Khan, a resident of the Chilas town. He added that hundreds of livestock, roads and fruit trees had also been damaged.

While the administration was busy tracking down the militants who attacked the police station, residents launched their own rescue operation.

According to Khan, a resident of the valley, the rescue operation was orchestrated on a self-help basis, because nobody was paying attention to their plight.

Meanwhile, experts are trying to assess whether the flood was the outcome of a glacial lake outburst (GLOF) or the earthquake that struck the region.

According to a survey conducted in 2013, up to three dozen lakes in the region have been declared hazardous for settlements downhill.

‘Milder monsoons’

Rains during this year’s monsoon season are expected to be normal, not torrential, during the month of July, with rainfall in Gilgit-Baltistan, northern Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, predicted Pakistan Meteorological Department’s director general Arif Mehmood. Talking to The Express Tribune on Saturday, he, however, added that rainfall will increase gradually during August and September in the northern parts of the country.

But the forecast of floods was simply not possible, informed Mehmood.

The north-eastern parts of the country are expected to receive slightly above normal precipitation during the monsoon season, while the areas of southern Pakistan are likely to receive below average rain fall, he added.

Earlier, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) chairman Maj Gen Muhammad Saeed Aleem had also said that the monsoon season is predicted to be milder this year than usual and areas expecting rain will not experience heavy or major losses. Nevertheless, precautionary arrangements are being made due to unusual climate patterns worldwide.

However, when NDMA officials were contacted on Saturday to learn about the authority’s contingency plan in line with the meteorological department’s forecast, they did not respond.

The Express Tribune

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