Children were among the 20 people were killed and dozens more feared dead after a landslide triggered by snow plunged two Pakistan villages into a river.Seven children, four women and two men were among those whose bodies have been taken out of the mud and buried, officials said. Maryum Bibi’s baby daughter was among those hurt. “There are many injured children,” the 30 year-old told United Nations news service, IRIN. “The scenes at hospitals of women and children wailing are terrible.” She said her house had been badly damaged and she and her husband did not know if they would get any help.
Monday’s disaster slid about 40 homes in two north west Pakistan mountain villages in including Atta Abad into the fast-flowing Hunza river in Gilgit Baltistan. Some 1,500 more people were forced out of their homes. The authorities have declared an emergency, but two days on, rescue workers’ hopes of finding any survivors are wearing thin. "Thirteen people were buried today. We have reports that dozens of others are missing. It seems there is no chance of their survival," police official Zaid Ullah told Agence France Presse news service from Gilgit Baltistan. "Some 20 to 25 people are missing. There is no chance of their survival. Those who are buried, are dead," said another police officer. “It was a terrifying thing to see. The houses slid down and took many people with them,” Ameer Mehdi, a local resident, told IRIN. “I pulled my children out of our house and my family fled up the crumbling hillside to escape.” The debris left by the homes blocked the flow of the river, which police warned could trigger flooding downstream.
The authorities ordered the evacuation of around 1,500 people living in low-lying villages to avoid further loss of life. But the disaster could have been prevented if the homes had been fixed after earlier damage, locals said. “There are about 100 houses in Attabad. Many of these and other houses in this area had developed cracks after a landslide three years ago,” Salim Ullah, 40, said. He said hillsides in the area were unstable after a powerful earthquake there in 2002. Despite concerns raised by villagers, he said nothing had been done to make their lives safer. Chinese engineers began the rescue work yesterday amid below freezing temperatures. The landslide also damaged a two-kilometre stretch of the Karakoram Highway, disrupting traffic and hampering access to the area.
By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children