Shigar fire incidents exposed disaster preparedness

Tanveer Shigri

Shigar, the newly born district of Gilgit Baltisan, witnessed two worst fire incidents of history during the month of October causing huge socio-economic losses. The lack of proper response further created insecurity among the local people. The month of October will be now observed as a month of mourning month as the inhabitants were left alone to borne the impacts of the fire induced disasters due to the lack of emergency response facilities in the district.

Fire caused by lightening in Arandu village of Bhasha valley has left the victims and sufferers with unforgettable memories of fear and insecurity. The second fire incident in Alchori village also deprived the affectees from shelter and basic life necessities.

These two incidents have adversely impacted the affected populations and also very loudly raised the question on the level of disaster preparedness at local level and the response strategies of concerned agencies.

Unfortunately, the fire burnt over ten houses along with all household belongings due to the absence of fire response and lack of emergency preparedness strategies in the district and wider Baltistan region.

In this modern age of technology where the states equip the local communities with required skills and tools to tackle any natural or anthropogenic emergencies. The situation is different in Pakistan as a whole and in Gilgit Baltistan where the local communities are still forced to live in the Stone Age with no basic rights and preparedness of safety and security from disaster. Shelter and all assets of over ten families burnt to ashes but the concerned agencies were crying over spilled milk.

The very first phase of emergency management includes mitigation, prevention & preparedness strategies were totally missing. The situation further worsens when the next step of emergency management which is to respond to disaster in timely manner was unpractical. The late arrival of emergency response teams to incident cites, lack of competent personals and lack of facilities to overcome such emergency situations were magnifying the risk level of such hazards in these areas.

The role of emergency management and rescue agencies like NDMA, Rescue 1122, and Civil Defense must be vigilant and proactive approaches should be adopted to deal with emergencies but unfortunately these agencies are used to mostly act after occurrence of the incidents. Risk Assessment Strategies, Hazard Vulnerability Assessment of these areas are much crucial from the likelihood & consequences of disasters.

To make sure swift relief operations at the initial stages after the occurrence of disasters, it is necessary to carry out community-based disaster preparedness activities on a habitual basis prior to an emergency or disaster.

Policy makers should reevaluate regulations; strengthen emergency management plans as per the demographic requirements of the region considering hard areas like Bhasha village of Shigar to facilitate such areas at time of needs in future. The coordination among major stakeholder’s i-e general public, local bodies and government agencies should be made smooth and stronger to bring into implementation the interrelated phases of emergency management.

Along with the need to identify the gaps to respond to emergencies it is also obligatory to avoid total reliance on state agencies for assistance to protect us from disasters. Responsibilities of the general public, state, and federal governments before, during, and after a disaster must be identified and planned which in turn can minimize the likelihood and consequences of disasters.

Relief programs have been initiated but are not up to the mark to fulfill the needs of the affectees. The role of political leadership of Shigar is also alarming and their contribution is observed limited to a traditional sympathy and condolence.
It is the time that inhabitants of Shigar should rethink about their perspectives to elect someone as community and political leader otherwise in the long run the area will further suffer.



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