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Impending crisis in Hunza’s Hassanabad after bridge collapse

Updated 09 May, 2022
<p>A view of Hunza’s Hassanabad collapsed bridge. Screengrab via Aaj News</p>

A view of Hunza’s Hassanabad collapsed bridge. Screengrab via Aaj News

<p>A view of Hunza’s Hassanabad bridge as water flows. Photo via Twitter/<a rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank" class="link--external" href="https://twitter.com/GBPolice1422">@GBPolice1422</a></p>

A view of Hunza’s Hassanabad bridge as water flows. Photo via Twitter/@GBPolice1422

GILGIT: Food, petrol and water crises are impending in Hunza’s Hassanabad village in addition to the area being disconnected from Gilgit via the main route after a bridge collapse on the Karakoram Highway (KKH) on Saturday due to a glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) from the Shishper Glacier.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has sought a to seek a report over the incident and ordered officials to take emergency measures

In a statement on Sunday, the PM ordered the officials to ensure people in the affected areas are shifted to safe locations with the provision of food and other necessary items. “The premier has ordered officials to estimate the cost of two damaged powerhouses and disruption to the water supply.”

PM Shehbaz has directed the officials to restore the two power plants of 700MW and 250MW on “war footing”.

The GLOF occurred after the glacial lake formed over the Shishper glacier started receding 8,000 cusecs of water while initiating the glacial melting prior to the normal duration.

The KKH bridge was damaged due to the massive flooding that disconnected Gilgit and Hunza. Apart from this, the incident has also damaged the water supply system to Hassanabad and Aliabad. The authorities have opened the alternate route only for small vehicles on the SAS Valley Road.

According to officials, the local population is not exposed to any sort of risk. However, the impending shortage of food, water and petrol in the area which connects Gilgit city to other valleys of the mountainous region is a concern. Houses, orchards, powerhouses, and fibre optics have also been damaged in the area.

Connecting areas Murtazaabad, Haiderabad, and Aliabad have also been affected because of the bridge collapse, with people complaining about increase in vegetable prices.

Adviser on Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit Baltistan Qamar Zaman Kaira has directed the officials to work on a “war footing” to restore road connectivity and routine life.

“At least 52 homes and the KKH at certain points have been damaged because of the flow of 8,000 cusecs of water,” GB Chief Secretay Muhiuddin Wani said. Hunza Deputy Commissioner Abdul Wahab said steps were under way for the availability of food, health facilities, and petrol to the people.

The lake outburst broke the intake points of the water storage and caused erosion which resulted in damage to properties. Experts have always highlighted the risks posed to Gilgit-Baltistan because of climate change as such incidents have also happened before.

“All institutions are alert.”

Tourists are stuck due to the roadblock. At least 15 tourists, including foreigners, travelling on a coaster were injured on Saturday.

The Hunza’s Hassanabad bridge, which is of historical importance, connects lower Hunza to upper Hunza that ends at the China border – Khunjerab Pass – making it vital for the connectivity to the whole country.

According to Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman, the FWO would have a temporary bridge up in 48 hours.

“Pakistan has the highest number of glaciers outside the polar region and many are losing mass due to high global temperatures. We need global leaders to reduce emissions, walk the talk,” she said in a series of tweets.

More to follow