Hunza flood could affect 40,000 people: official

Hunza flood could affect 40,000 people: official

18 May 2010
The Dawn


ISLAMABAD: Flooding from a lake in northern Pakistan risks affecting 40,000 people with residents from up to 34 villages already evacuated to safety, a top disaster management official warned Tuesday. The artificial lake emerged on January 4 as a result of a massive landslide that killed 20, left about 25,000 people stranded and blocked the Hunza river in a remote Himalayan region about 750 kilometres (450 miles) north of Islamabad. 'We are preparing for a caseload of 40,000 that could be affected by flooding,' Nadeem Ahmed, chairman of national disaster management authority, told a press conference in the capital. There were 4,000 people in the villages of Gulmit, Ayeenabad and Shishkat, where water had submerged some areas and from people have moved to safer areas, he said. Only a few of the displaced are going to government-provided tents. 'Most of the people had gone to live with their relatives or sheltered in school buildings, very few have opted to live in tents but the government is providing rations to all of them,' Ahmed said. Flooding would put at risk 13,500 people downstream and about 25,000 people upstream who were 'less threatened'. He said evacuation had been completed in up to 34 villages downstream, but was not able to release a total number of people. 'There was some distress as people were compelled to abandon their homes, but it was necessary for their safety,' he said. Ahmed said food, non-food items and generators had been stockpiled in the area and a distribution system set up. The United Nations has been asked to provide sanitation facilities in the area. Pakistani soldiers and army engineers had deployed to provide assistance to civilian administration and seven helicopters would be in the area to evacuate any stranded people. 'An early warning system has been established in the area and people would also be warned via SMS if there is any danger,' he added. The official said that a ferry service to connect the people stranded due to lake formation had been stopped today because of rain forecast. Water in the 332-feet (101-metre) deep and 16-kilometre (10-mile) long lake was rising by one meter (yard) daily. 'The water could start flowing downstream through spill ways in the next five to six days. Our aim is that there should be no loss of life, though many houses and buildings would be submerged,' Ahmed said. Tags hunza


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