CHITRAL/peshawar – Rescuers on Sunday found the bodies of a schoolboy and a passerby hit by an avalanche in the mountainous Chitral District, while around nine more remain buried beneath the snow.
The disaster struck on Saturday afternoon when the teenage students were returning home after exams near the village of Susom in Karimabad, some 40 kilometres north of the town of Chitral in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which has seen heavy rains in recent days, local police station chief Sultan Baig told AFP.
Worried parents and authorities began searching for the ninth and tenth graders when they did not return from school.
“The chances of finding any survivors are very low,” said local deputy mayor Mohammad Ali.
“But you never know; people have been found alive buried under snow for nearly 20 hours.
The Provincial Disaster Management Authority said Sunday evening the rescue operation was still continuing.
The spokesman for the local disaster management authority, Latifur Rehman, said the district administration is working with the army, police and paramilitary forces to recover the bodies of the seven students and two passersby, who are presumed dead.
Army and scouts Sunday recovered the bodies of a 9th grader and a passerby while seven other students of 9th and 10 grade were among nine persons trapped in the avalanche.
Talking to APP, an official of Police Control Chitral Fazaluddin disclosed that soon after the incident, the jawans of Pakistan Army and scouts rushed to the site in Susom village.
DSP Chitral Khalid Khan, who remained there for the whole day, said that the chances of the students to be taken out alive are dim as more than 10 hours have passed.
He informed that they have only recovered two bodies – one of a student and the other of a passerby through rescue operation jointly conducted by the jawans of Army and Chitral Scouts.
The official also confirmed that the rescue operation was halted due to bad weather and heavy rain.
Due to fear of more avalanches, the operation has been stopped, the official added.
The official further confirmed that Army and scouts launched operation soon after the incident and recovered the bodies of Mubashir s/o Nouroz, resident of Susom along with a passerby Rehmat s/o Adina, also from Susom village of Karimabad.
The official said that heavy rain was still continuing and that was why it had been decided to halt the rescue operation.
He said that DPO Chitral Asif Iqbal Mohmand and Nazim Ali Murad were also present at the site of the incident.
Others who lost their lives in the tragic incident included Imranudddin, Faiz Ali, Ali Shan, Imran Khan, Elahi and Irshad Murad.
The district administration and levies personnel, police, army and local volunteers, humanitarian agencies were working in the area but the weather is not friendly, an official spokesman of PDMA said.
Due to difficult terrain and topography, heavy machinery could not make their way to the area and the people are using local available equipments to recover the bodies, the PDMA spokesman said.
Heavy rains have killed at least 86 people, injured 101 and damaged 240 houses since March 9 across Pakistan, according to the National Disaster Management Authority.
It said landslides and collapsed roofs caused most of the fatalities.
Poorly-built homes, particularly in rural areas, are most prone to collapse.
Severe weather hits the country every year, with hundreds killed and huge tracts of prime farmland destroyed in recent years.