60 killed, hundreds missing as dam bursts in Pakistan

Islamabad (dpa) - At least 60 people were killed and hundreds were missing after flash flooding ripped open a dam and washed away several villages and a passenger bus in south-western Pakistan, a regional minister said Friday.

Flood waters caused by days of torrential rains smashed the Shadi Khore dam Thursday night near the coastal town of Pasni in Gwadar district, some 600 kilometres south-west of the Balochistan provincial capital Quetta, washing away people, houses, cars and buses.

''The flood waters washed away a passenger bus on the coastal highway near Pasni town, killing 20 people,'' regional minister Sher Jan Baloch told reporters in Quetta Friday evening.

He said at least 40 people were killed by the flood waters in Pasni and its surrounding areas and torrential rains in other provincial towns such as Awarran, Turbat, Baila, Gwadar, Mand, Aushab and Ormara.

Baloch said it is difficult to give the exact number of villages washed away by floodwaters and the total number of fatalities. He said some 100 people have been missing since Thursday night in rain-hit areas.

However, opposition leader in the Balochistan assembly Chachkol Ali told reporters that more than 700 people were missing in different areas, particularly in Pasni, after the dam burst with fears that the floods might have swept them into the sea.

Almost half of Pasni's 5,000-strong population was feared trapped in the flood waters as army troops were called in to evacuate them.

But the regional minister was unable to give an exact number of people affected by the floods or trapped in different rain-hit areas, saying that ''we have lost communication links with these areas and it is getting difficult to get a damage assessment report from the local authorities.''

Meanwhile, chief military spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan told reporters in Islamabad that the army doesn't know the number of fatalities or the extent of the damage, but ''our helicopters flying over the affected area are engaged in damage assessment.''

On the directive of Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, the Pakistan navy also launched relief and rescue operations in the flood affected coastal area Friday.

''The reconnaissance reports by naval helicopters indicate that the Shadi Khor dam has been badly damaged while 40 kilometres of the coastal highway has been washed away,'' a navy spokesman told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa in Islamabad.

Locals said two villages - Pasni Sindh Paso and Turati near Pasni - have almost been washed away, affecting nearly 700 people.

Flash floods also swept away many bridges on the coastal highway, severing all road links to the port city of Karachi.

Pakistan remains in the grip of incessant rains and heavy snow that have mainly affected the northern and south-western regions.

Meanwhile, the death toll from rain-related incidents continued to rise on Friday with at least 45 people reported dead and 22 injured across the country.

Most of the deaths occurred in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). In one major incident, sixteen people, including 12 members of one family, were killed Thursday after an avalanche triggered by heavy rain and snow hit their homes.

At least 250 shanty houses have been destroyed in Mashi, Niyabat Bazaar and Khar Bazaar villages in the province.

The temperature in Balochistan province has sunk to below freezing and snow also caused the roofs of several buildings to collapse in the hill resort of Murree, 40 kilometres north-east of Islamabad. dpa ig blg pmc


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