Seven avalanche survivors rescued

DASU: Villagers digging with sticks and spades rescued seven survivors from an avalanche that slammed into a remote village in northern Pakistan killing up to 30 people, officials said today.

The disaster struck in Kohistan district, which borders Pakistan’s mountainous northern areas and where heavy snow and treacherous winter weather prevented rescuers from reaching the stricken area quickly. A massive wall of snow ploughed into the small village of Bagroodara wedged into a mountain in the Kundian valley, where poor communication links meant it had taken up to 12 hours for appeals for help to filter through.

Local residents reached the scene first, but police arrived more than 24 hours after the avalanche hit the poorly developed region, senior police officer Mohammad Ilyas told AFP in Dasu, the main town in Kohistan.

“They were ill-equipped but using local tools like spades and sticks residents joined police and recovered seven people alive,”

said Ilyas. The village is in Kohistan district, about 220 km north of the Pakistani capital Islamabad.

“We have serious communication problems. Sometimes it takes 12 hours for people to convey information. They travel by foot, there is no other way.

Today we have sent helicopters to assist with the rescue,” Ilyas said. He said 30 people were killed, but that only 17 bodies had so far been removed from under the snow and ice.

District administration chief Amin ul-Haq also had the same casualty figure.

Kohistan health department official Gul Berg said the chances of survival for 13 people still trapped under the snow were “almost nil”.

“They have been buried under a huge mass of ice for the past three days and no hope is left now,” Berg said.