This revelation was mentioned almost offhandedly in a article innocuously entitled “Avalanche kills five soldiers as cold snap toll rises to 109.” I don’t know if this headline was an attempt to hide the extent of the disaster or not.
16 Jan 2020 – At least 15 more people were killed by avalanches in Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir as the death toll across the country surged to 109.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Imran Khan arrived at Muzaffarabad where he was briefed on the losses and rescue efforts being undertaken in the snowbound valley.
While the Neelum Valley has been reportedly the worst-hit area so far with 74 killings, land and phone communications of upper areas of Gilgit-Baltistan region remained disconnected for a fourth consecutive day.
Inthe Astore district, officials said, avalanches killed seven more people and injured several more. However, the injured couldn’t be shifted to hospitals as some roads had been blocked for the past several days.
700 villages cut off by heavy snowfall – Hundreds stranded
Locals said hundreds passengers had been stranded on the Gilgit-Skardu road, which had been closed for the past four days. Rajab Ali Qamar from Skardu said around 700 villages had been cut off from rest of the Baltistan division due to heavy snowfall.
According to the local authorities, the region received record snowfall during the past four days. The harsh weather brought life to standstill across GB, they added.
The area received up to one-foot of snowfall in parts of Skardu, Shigar, Kharmang, Ghanche, Ghizer, Astore, Nagar, Hunza, Diamer and Gilgit.
Air travel between Islamabad to Skardu as well as Gilgit has already been suspended for nearly a week due to the harsh weather and snow-clad Skardu airport. Heavy snowfall has also affected roads, phone communication and power supply in many parts of the region, making it difficult to gather information from remote areas about the disaster.
According to officials, GB Chief Minister Hafeezur Rehman issued a high alert in all districts of the region due to heavy snowfall. Government employees have been asked to remain on duty with all leaves cancelled by the government.
Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2020
Thanks to Clay Olson for this link