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Pakistan Extreme Weather Death Toll at 83

An ambulance ferries patients to a hospital through a snow-covered road in Kangan, north of Srinagar, India-controlled Kashmir, Jan. 14, 2020.

Extreme weather in parts of Pakistan over the last three days has caused at least 83 deaths, while dozens of other people are injured and some are still missing.

A spokesman for the National Disaster Management Authority, Brigadier Waseem ud Din, told VOA’s Urdu Service most of the deaths have been reported in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir due to heavy snow that caused avalanches.

Senior officials in Pakistani Kashmir said at least 62 people have died there, 39 of them in two avalanches. In Balochistan province, at least 20 people have died due to heavy rains, while one person died in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

In one dramatic cell phone video making rounds in local WhatsApp groups, men are seen shouting with excitement, "We found the man, we found the man." The video goes on to show people trying to dig a man out of snow as his foot is caught in something and wrapping a scarf around his head as he waits to be rescued.

In another incident, an avalanche carried a girl down with it.

"When we rescued her, she was still breathing slowly, but within five minutes of being rescued, she died," said a paramedic in the Neelum valley. He blamed the avalanches on deforestation.

Snow covers areas of Kundalshahi, in Neelum Valley, Pakistan-administered Kashmir, Jan. 14, 2020.
Snow covers areas of Kundalshahi, in Neelum Valley, Pakistan-administered Kashmir, Jan. 14, 2020.

"We used to have a lot of snow here 10 years ago as well. But I think the reason why it is turning into avalanches now is because a lot of trees in this area have been cut in a short time," he said.

The road leading to the valley was buried under several meters of snow, hampering rescue efforts. Military helicopters were assisting in the relief effort.

The minister for disaster management in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, Ahmed Raza Qadri, said rescue efforts were under way.

"Rescue teams and relief supplies have been dispatched from Muzaffarabad (the capital of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir) and I am also going there," he said.

Neelam valley’s deputy commissioner Raja Shahid said avalanches used to happen in March and seeing them in January is unusual.

VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem contributed to this report from Islamabad.