Description of the disaster
From 11 to 13 January 2020, several parts of Pakistan were hit by heavy rains and snow fall which resulted in flash floods, avalanches and landslides. According to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) sitrep published on 23 January 20201 , at least 107 people have died due to the severe weather conditions. Among them, 21 belonged to Baluchistan, five from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), two from Gilgit Baltistan (GB) and 79 were confirmed in AJK. The Baluchistan provincial government declared a state of emergency in 11 districts and requested NDMA to allow humanitarian organizations to support the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) to reach out to the people in need. AJK government also declared Neelum, Leepa Valley and Bhadi as disaster hit areas,nominating a Relief Commissioner to manage the relief activities in these areas.
BBC news reported that the snowfall had been historical for both Kashmir and Baluchistan. Quetta, Areas of Ziarat, Harnoi, Kan Mehtarzai, Muslim Bagh, Khanozai and Khojak Pass were blanketed in snow. Due to heavy snow fall the highways between Quetta-Sibi, Quetta-Karachi and Quetta-Zhob were also blocked. Meanwhile, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that around 1 million people have been affected by the cold wave (around 140,000 families).
In Kharan, Panjgoor and Gwadar districts, heavy rains had been reported which resulted in flash-flooding in different area of mentioned district. In total, 56mm rainfall was recorded in Turbat, 40mm in Pasni and 26mm in Pishin. In Kashmir, the worst affected district is Neelum (Extreme North District of AJK) due to heavy snowfall, rain and avalanche created havoc, where 79 people died, and more than 91 houses completely destroyed. The total population affected by the avalanches in Neelum District is 910 households (6,370 people), with another 3,134 households (21,938 people) indirectly affected by the heavy snow.
Astor Valley received a record-breaking snow in some areas breaking 100 years record (Media and Gilgit Baltistan Disaster Management Authority - GBDMA). It was reported that two people had died due to avalanche while four injured.
The heavy snow paralyzed life in the region, with residents in northern valleys restricted to their homes. Gilgit Baltistan authorities mobilized all their resources to open the blocked roads and to assist the people in need.
As a result of the heavy rain and snowfall on the upper reaches of Neelam and Leepa and some top mountainous parts of AJK was disconnected from rest of the country through land routes. The roads and telecommunication networks were badly affected in AJK, Baluchistan, KP and GB and adjoining areas because of downpour in plains and snowfall on mountains. All these not only have caused deaths but also halted the lives of thousands of local people.
Furthermore, since local people in this region make their living through daily wage jobs, livestock rearing, farming, or small local businesses, blockage of pathways and roads directly affect their livelihoods. The extreme cold weather conditions (up to minus 16°C) also restricted them to their houses.