An avalanche kills 11 nomadic tribes in northern Pakistan

GILGIT, Pakistan — An avalanche in northern Pakistan killed 11 people, including a 4-year-old boy, and injured 25 others from a nomadic tribe as they crossed a mountain range with their herds of goats, police said.

The avalanche hit the nomads in the Chambeli area of ​​the Shounter Pass, which connects the Astore district of the Gilgit Baltistan region with the neighboring Azad Kashmir region.

Four women and a 4-year-old boy were among the dead, said Gilgit Baltistan Senior Police Officer Ziarat Ali.

The nomads were taking their herd of goats on foot from Azad Kashmir’s Kel district to Astore when they were caught in an avalanche in the early hours of the morning, Ali said. Tufail Mir, the region’s deputy police chief, said rescuers were having difficulty reaching the avalanche-hit area, and teams were assisting local authorities.

The rescue operation, which also included two military helicopters, took place in rough terrain and at an altitude of about 4,270 meters above sea level. The bodies of the dead and wounded were taken to ambulances 5 kilometers (3 miles) away, Ali said.

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According to eyewitnesses, local residents joined the rescue teams in recovering the victims.

In a statement, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif expressed grief over the casualties and called on officials to provide the best possible medical care to the injured.

Gilgit Baltistan Chief Minister Khalid Khurshid has declared a state of emergency in the hospitals of the region’s largest cities, Gilgit and Skardu.

Gilgit Baltistan, sometimes referred to as the land of glaciers, has seen frequent avalanches and avalanches in recent years due to climate change.

According to the United Nations, rising temperatures are rapidly melting glaciers in Pakistan’s northern highlands, resulting in the formation of 3,044 glacial lakes in Gilgit Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces.

Pakistan is one of the 10 countries at high risk of natural disasters due to climate change. The country was hit by flash floods in the summer of 2022 that killed more than 1,700 people and affected 33 million people.

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Climate experts say floods and avalanches are becoming more common in Pakistan due to the delay in April snowfall, instead of the previous climate pattern of December and January. The late phenomenon does not allow the snow layers to compact tightly and crystallize into solid glacial ice. After that, the rise in temperature in May and June results in the melting of the glaciers.