Thousands face displacement in Hunza if lake bursts its banks – IRIN Report

Thousands face displacement if lake bursts its banks
The new lake on the Hunza River

ISLAMABAD, 10 May 2010 (IRIN) – Flooding caused by an overflowing lake, formed after a landslide blocked the River Hunza in northern Pakistan in January, has forced hundreds from their homes, and threatens to displace thousands more.

According to media reports, 88 houses in Aeenabad and Shashkat villages, and two bridges, have been swept away. The two areas were cut-off by the floods.

The water has reached Gulmit, the largest town in Gojal sub-district of Hunza-Nagar District.

“The situation is quite critical. About 13,000 people in the affected area face displacement,” Noor Muhammad, of the NGO Focus Humanitarian Assistance, which has been monitoring the situation in Hunza, told IRIN.

He said organized evacuations had not begun but people had been moving away. “People need to be relocated to safe areas. The situation is quite dangerous.” Nine sites, including government schools and other buildings, had been identified for housing people, he added.

According to a 30 April humanitarian update by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, some “200 people had been relocated as a precaution”.

The lake is 16km long and 350 metres wide. Water is pouring into it at the rate of 2,500 cubic metres per day, according to media reports. The lake does not have an appropriate spillway, so there is a risk it could suddenly burst its banks.

The Pakistan army’s Frontier Works Organization has been attempting since January to create a spillway, but is now likely to stop work, according to Muhammad, due to rising water levels in the lake and the threat of flooding.

The 4 January landslide caused at least 13 deaths and blocked the river in the Attabad area. The lake that formed cut road links to Gojal, resulting in food shortages there. If the lake bursts its banks, flash floods could cause havoc downriver.


“The situation in the affected area has been very grim for months. People are terrified of floods, and those in Gojal have had to depend on many items from China at high cost as links to Pakistan have been cut off,” Ali Ahsan, a resident of Hunza, told IRIN on the phone.

“Panic is now mounting. Goods were reaching them by boat but now these have stopped running due to a fuel shortage,” he said.

Since the landslide, over 1,000 displaced people from Attabad village and nearby areas have been living in makeshift camps. In March, the governor of Gilgit-Baltistan, a non-self-governing territory, declared Gojal sub-district in Upper Hunza Region “disaster hit”, and said the government was “fully prepared to deal with any situation”.

“We are still awaiting instructions on what to do next. There is a lot of confusion,” Muhammad Ali, 40, a resident of Hunza town, said. “People who lost cattle and property in the landslide need more help.”

Source: IRIN News 10 May 2010 – a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Daily Times Report

Landslide lake in Hunza rises to threatening levels

LAHORE: The water level of a landslide-triggered lake in Hunza is threateningly on the rise, with another village facing risks of a flood, a private TV channel reported on Sunday. The artificial lake formed out of a landslide, has not only destroyed the Atta Abad village, but also completely covered the villages of Gojal, Aieenabad and Shashkat. The threatening water level may inundate Gulmit, the headquarters of Gojal tehsil, as its low-lying areas are already under water, the channel reported. The residents of Atta Abad were given a May 15 deadline to vacate the area after experts voiced their concerns that the Atta Abad Lake dam may breach soon. Separately, residents of Hunza district are facing severe food shortages due to a shortage of fuel. Goods laden trucks have been unable to cross the Chinar Bagh Bridge, due to which fuel cannot be delivered to boats, leaving them stranded. daily times monitor


Video update (30 April 2010)

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