The News – Panicked people took everything they could carry, even doors and windows, as Attabad Lake threatened to flood dozens of villages here, officials and witnesses said on Monday.
Water from the lake has submerged parts of Gulmit, a tourist resort on the main Karakoram Highway linking Pakistan with China, resident Rehan Shah said. The local administration had warned them to evacuate the area and move to relief camps set up by the government.
Officials in jeeps fitted with an address system called on people to leave their homes. Similar announcements have also been made from mosques in the area. According to Gilgit-Baltistan administration, the area was divided into two parts and every part was looked after by an Assistant Commissioner.
Revenue Officer Iqbal Jan said medicines and other edibles were stored in sufficient quantity, for about 18,000 displaced persons to be affected by the overtopping of water from the Hunza.
The water level of Attabad Lake is short of few feet from the spillways and it is likely to increase to 340-350 feet in three to four days, causing water to overflow. Met Office Director Mian Ajmal Shad said that the current water level is 330.8 feet. He said that the level of 340 to 350 feet is expected within the next 3 to 4 days.
The official said that the inflow in the lake is between 2,000 to 2,400 cusecs, while the outflow is 80 to 90 cusecs only. He added that the work on the spillway has been completed. The boat service for Attaabad Lake will be suspended from Tuesday as the water has reached the spillway built by Frontier Works Organization (FWO), for safe outflow of water from the reservoir, it was officially learnt here on Monday.
Suspension of the service will also disrupt the land communication between middle and upper Hunza. According to the district administration, the lake is spread over 16 kilometres and the water level is rising at the rate of three feet per 24 hours.
Meanwhile, Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Syed Mehdi Shah has said that affectees of Attaabad Lake were being shifted to safer places. He said that the government was trying to facilitate the people living near the lake and for this purpose, all available resources were being utilised.
Though, there is no chance of bursting of the lake but, as a precautionary measure all arrangements have been finalised, the chief minister said. “We are fully alert. All is set to deal with any situation. Special camps for internally displaced persons (IDP) have been set up. Sufficient arrangements for drinking water, shelter and security have been made besides storage of food items, medicines and other material,” he added.
He said the Pakistan Army with the help of civil administration was carrying out relief operation. If the lake water outbursts, it would not be harmful for Tarbella Dam, he said. He termed it a natural calamity and appealed to the people to pray to Almighty Allah for help to overcome the situation. Mehdi Shah said affectees would be compensated and lists in this regard were being prepared.
The chief minister said sirens had already been installed at different places, besides the emergency centers had been established for quick relief.The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has taken relief measures for the affectees of Ataabad Lake, besides adopting a strategy to control water level arisen alarmingly over 337 feet, which has submerged a long part of Karakurram Highway.
Talking to APP on Monday, NDMA official Brig Saeed said the authority has successfully launched a rescue operation. “If no fresh land sliding occurs, we would reopen the road today”, he informed.
Answering a question regarding the timeframe for normalisation of the situation, he said: “I cannot give proper timeframe. Hopefully the situation will be under controlled between May 20-30. It may take more time depending upon the circumstances.”
He said all necessary steps have been taken to facilitate the villagers, who have been affected and migrated to safer places.“Consignments of relief items including food items, tents, crockery etc are sent for the affectees “, he said.
All precautionary measures, he said, are being adopted to control any emergency situation that may arise due to bursting of the lake. “We have suffered a loss of more than 500 billion rupees since January,” president of the Gilgit chamber of commerce, Javed Hussain, told AFP in Karimabad, the main town in the picturesque Hunza valley.
Trade convoys arriving in the border town of Sust are sent to Hussaini town from where they are loaded onto boats to cross the lake, Hussain said.Then private loaders, carrying goods on their back put the cargo on jeeps for onward shipment to Gilgit, he said.
Around 36 villages may be submerged if the banks of the lake burst as the water level continues to rise, Iqbal Jan, a local government official said. “We have set up nine relief camps in Gilgit and 11 in Hunza and advised people to move now,” Jan said but admitted that most people preferred to go to friends or relatives.
Express Tribune – HUNZA: Water outflow from the spillway of a lake formed by landsliding in Hunza has stopped on Monday, causing flooding in adjacent areas.
The water from the lake in the Atta Abad area submerged 88 houses in Aeenabad and Shashkat while two bridges have also been swept away. The two areas also lost their ground link to other areas.
The water has reached Gilmat village where 42 houses and a commercial market were earlier evacuated.
Evacuations are also underway in other nearby villages.
The lake is 16 kilometers long and 350 meters wide. 2500 cusecs water is adding to the lake’s water, daily. The lake does not have an appropriate spillway which is threatening the lake to burst. FW and army engineers are working tirelessly to resolve the issue.
The News – Even after 90 per cent of excavation work, the risk of sudden water outburst in newly developed large lake due to blockage of the River Hunza after massive landslide is still haunting the relevant departments as it can pose danger not only to thousands of people but also to Tarbela Dam, 50 kilometres northwest of Islamabad, sources told this scribe here on Friday.
According to sources, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and other departments, currently engaged in construction of spillways, took many weeks to remove major portions of debris and other material from the lake because engineers avoided use of heavy machinery or dynamites in the face of critical situation.
Sources stated that the relevant departments tried to complete construction of spillways till May 30, as signalled by various officials of the Ministry of Environment, but now they would take further two weeks for completion of their task.
The high-ups of all relevant departments during a meeting held under the chairmanship of Environment Minister Hameedullah Jan Afridi unanimously decided that no major blast technique would be used to clear the way of the River Hunza and instead spillways would be constructed for drainage of accumulated water.
The report presented by Professor David Petley of the International Landslide Centre at Durham University clearly stated that there was a substantive risk of water outburst with a potential for a large flood wave to travel downstream as far as Tarbela Dam, 50 kilometres northwest of Islamabad.
In his report, he stated that there was a substantive risk of an outburst event caused by the landslide dam in Hunza that was most likely during or shortly after water travelled across the spillway. However, such an event can be triggered by a range of other processes, some of which may provide little warning.
“If such an event occurs, there is the potential for a large flood wave to travel downstream as far as Tarbela Dam. This wave would greatly endanger the downstream population and can cause damage to infrastructure,” it said.
The report further stated that populations located between the river level and the safe level should be evacuated prior to the arrival of the wave. It would require precautionary evacuations for those people living downstream of the dam and emergency evacuation plans for those living further downstream.
It suggested that a great deal of more work was urgently required in terms of the management of the hazard, in particular outside of the area between Attabad and Gilgit while constructing spillways for drainage of water.
According to official record, the Hunza River near Attabad was blocked due to a landslide that occurred on January 4 this year. The landslide created a water reservoir 11 kilometres long where water level has now increased up to 300 feet. The initial disaster buried the village of Attabad and submerged three miles of the Karakoram Highway, highly important for business activities in the summer season.
An expert from Geological Survey of Pakistan has already informed the Ministry of Environment that the region is also among the most seismically active in the world because it is located at the junction of the Asian and Indian geological plates, where the Himalaya, Karakorum and Hindukush mountain ranges meet.
Arshad H. Abbasi, a visiting research fellow at SDPI, said if the water goes out of the lake it would reach Tarbela Dam because the water waves can be as high as 40 metres or even more due to huge body of water behind a landslide dam.
FOCUS Pakistan that conducts regular geological survey and hazard assessments of vulnerable areas especially in the mountainous areas of northern Pakistan in its assessment report compiled in 2006 stated that there was a high risk of rapid movements and potential disaster but no one took pains to take any precautionary measure that resulted in massive landslide in the Hunza River.
The data provided by FOCUS showed that it has set up an early-warning system to alert villagers downstream in case the dam shows signs of collapse. A monitoring camp has also been set up above the lake equipped with CCTV and floodlights to monitor seepage or any unusual activity in the dam.
National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Spokesman Ahmad Kamal told this scribe that clearance of area or preparation of access way on slide for making spillway cut started on January 6 and 180,104 cubic meter excavation work has so far been carried out by the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) that is almost 91% of total excavation work.
“You cannot go for adventure when level of water increasing constantly and there is a danger of sudden water outburst, so there is a need to take every step with extreme care to ensure every thing moves in the right direction,” he said.
Giving details about newly developed lake, he said, the length of the lake is 12 kilometres and its height has reached up to 282 feet and current water inflow is 1,894 cusecs having seepage of 32 cusecs.
The News – Federal Minister for Environment Hameedullah Jan Afridi on Wednesday directed the concerned authorities to finalise emergency plan for rescue of people, who are at high risk due to blockade of Hunza River, as a result of large scale landslide.
While chairing a follow up meeting along with Minister for Information and Broadcasting Qamar Zaman Qaira, he asked the concerned officials to find out ways and means to come out of critical situation aroused after Hunza River was blocked by a 2 kilometre wide and 380 feet high avalanche slipped into it at Ataabad on January 04.
Representatives of Wapda, FWO, ERRA, Sparco, experts from other government and civil society organisations, Secretary Ministry of Environment Javed Malik, Additional Secretary Kamran Ali Quershi, DG Environment Javed Ali Khan and other officials of the environment ministry also attended the meeting.
Giving detailed briefing about situation of landslide in Attaabad, Gilgit-Baltistan a representative of FWO highlighted several aspects of the lake with reference of consultations, survey and decisions made by the organisation. He said that FWO has taken various initiatives and entire work would hopefully be completed by end of April.
Representative of Sparco also gave presentation in which he briefed about landslide situation and detailed analysis about the area and informed that the situation of is being monitored on daily basis. The participants of the meeting urged district and local administration to analyse and assess the issue and make all possible safety arrangements. Minister for Information Qamar Zaman Qaira asked FWO to make special arrangements to work day and night so that situation may be controlled well in time. During the meeting it was decided that FWO should continue its work with high spirits and make all possible arrangements to complete the task as soon as possible.
The minister for environment said that the basic aim of the meeting was to develop better understanding among the district government and other related departments to mobilise their activities in this regard.
It is pertinent to mention here that first meeting was held yesterday in which the federal minister was briefed about landslide situation at Attaabad, Gilgit-Baltistan. The participants gave presentations on the occasion and highlighted different aspects of this sensitive issue. The lake level is currently rising at 0.6 m per day. It was observed that about 25,000 populations would be cut off from the downstream communities in case of an outburst. Moreover, if such an event occurs, there is the potential for a large flood wave to travel downstream as far as Terbela Dam. It would greatly endanger the downstream population and could cause substantive damage to infrastructure downstream, and the impact of the flood will pose problems in terms of livelihoods and welfare.
Chief Secretary and Home Secretary of Gilgit-Baltistan informed about details of currently on-going efforts during the meeting. On this occasion, different aspects for the construction of spillways were raised. Likewise, matters related to relocation of affected population, monitoring and alert systems, provision of funds, food, medicines and health care facilities and other emergency arrangements were shared by the participants.