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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Landslides Shutdown Karakoram Highway

The Karakoram Highway faces a tumultuous shutdown due to heavy rain-triggered landslides, paralyzing traffic and stranding travelers amidst nature's fury.

The Gilgit-Baltistan region is facing significant disruptions as the Karakoram Highway (KKH) remains closed for the second consecutive day due to landslides triggered by heavy snowfall and rain.

The closures, initially announced on Wednesday, have led to challenges for residents and travelers alike, impacting fuel supplies and raising the cost of fresh produce. The closure has left numerous vehicles stranded along the KKH, aggravating the situation for those affected.

Officials from the Gilgit-Baltistan government have stated that the closure is necessary to facilitate the clearing of debris and ensure the safety of travelers. Although alternative routes such as Baltistan Road, Gilgit-Chitral Road, and Astore Road have been opened, the KKH remains a vital lifeline for the region, emphasizing the urgency of its restoration.

Challenges and Evacuations

The road closures have compounded the difficulties faced by locals, with reports of fuel shortages and rising prices of essential goods. Stranded passengers and tourists have been evacuated from the affected areas using smaller vehicles, providing some relief amid the disruption. However, the closure underscores the vulnerability of the region’s infrastructure to extreme weather conditions, highlighting the need for long-term solutions to mitigate such challenges.

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Efforts to reopen the KKH are underway, with workers from the Frontier Works Organization (FWO) deployed to clear debris and restore traffic flow. Despite facing difficulties due to ongoing landslides, heavy machinery has been mobilized to expedite rehabilitation work along the highway. The Gilgit-Baltistan home department has reported progress in clearing landslides at multiple points, with plans to reopen the road pending favorable weather conditions.

The closures come amidst a broader weather alert issued by the GB government, forecasting heavy rainfall and snowfall in the region until February 27. The persistent rain and snowfall have not only affected ground transportation but also aerial connections between Islamabad, Skardu, and Gilgit. With adverse weather conditions persisting, residents in upper areas are experiencing cold waves, power outages, and communication disruptions, further compounding the challenges faced by the local population.