GILGIT/GHIZER/ISLAMABAD: On 17th of July, at around 6 pm, a Glacial Lake Outburst Flood started oozing out of the remote Badswat Glacier, 65 kilometers north of Gahkuch, the district Headquarters of Ghizer District. Powerful and roaring waves of muddy water, carrying large and small boulders, ran down the valley, destroying everything in their path.
The flood debris running down the slope hit the mountain on the opposite side, and formed a barrier, blocking the gorge through which the Kurumbar River has been flowing for centuries.
Blocked by the GLOF debris, the Kurumbar river started swelling. As the water level increased in the newly dammed river, the nearby areas were flooded. The destruction continued for several hours, until the water reached the top of the barrier and started flowing again, in smaller volumes.
Meanwhile, the flood from the glacier continued coming out, after short intervals, causing more destruction, and increasing the water level in the artificial lake.
The worst hit villages were Badswat and Bilhanz, where dozens of houses were submerged, forcing the locals to take shelter in the nearby mountains and hills.
So far, 30 houses have been caused to submerge in the lake in Badswat, Madad Ali, President of the Ismaili Local Council, told Pamir Times. He added that 10 houses have also been swept away by the flood in Bilhanz village. A community center, a primary school and some other buildings have also been flooded because of the disaster. Luckily, no life has been lost, so far, he added.
The flood has also destroyed a long stretch of the unpaved link road, disconnecting 10 villages upstream of Badswat, and stranding around 1500 residents. The stranded villages and hamlets include, Shariroy, Ganjabad, Duardas, Borth, Bazar Khutu, Mahtramdan, Yazben, Yosin and Booq.
IMMIT: In a separate incident, a flood from the Immit Glacier has destroyed three houses.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Army, GB Disaster Management Authority and various organizations of the Aga Khan Development Network are trying to help the affected people.
Pakistan Army’s media wing, ISPR, has informed that the Engineers Corps opened a blocked road near Immit to ensure smooth flow of traffic. They have also said that the troops are alert to help the locals. Experts from the Pakistan Army, after an aerial survey of the area, predicted yesterday that the lake might drain within five days. However, fresh debris flow form the Badswath glacier has blocked flow of the river again.
A medical team of the Aga Khan Health Service, Pakistan has reached Bilhanz, one of the disconnected villages, and established a camp to help the locals. A team of the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat has reached the area for damage assessment and relief efforts. Tent villages have also been established to help the displaced residents.
Deputy Commissioner of Ghizer is overseeing the relief efforts. Medical teams of the Govt Health Department has also reached the upstream areas, while an Assistant Director of GBDMA is stationed in Bilhanz to coordinate the efforts, said Madad Ali.
According to one source, more than 120 households have been evacuated precautionarily from low laying areas of villages, including Rehmat Abad, Sheliabad, Bilhanz, Teshanlot and Badswath, in view of the risks that might be caused by sudden breaking of the lake’s barrier. Majority of the evacuated families are living with host families.
GBDMA has sent food packages to the upstream communities, said an Assistant Director of the organization, but the assistance is not enough.
Locals in the area are likely to suffer food shortage in the future because of the road blockade, and also due to destruction of their cropped fields and trees.
Rehabilitating the families who have lost their house is another major challenge.
People living downstream of the dammed river are living in fear, because of the damage breaking of the barrier could cause.