Altitude Junkies Gasherbrums team members Crossing a flooded river between Askole and Skardu.
Image by Arian Lemal courtesy Arian Lemal, SOURCE
Afhgan refugee trying to save his belongings from the mud after floods.
Image by A. Fazzina for UNHCR /Noor courtesy A. Fazzina for UNHCR /Noor, SOURCE
Italian Lorenzo on K7 west face.
Image by Daniele Nardi courtesy Mountain Freedom, SOURCE
ExWeb report from the field on Pakistan "worst floods ever seen"
Posted: Aug 16, 2010 02:20 pm EDT
(ExplorersWeb/Madrid) I have never seen anything like this, a shocked UN chief Ban Ki-Moon said yesterday. Its the worst flood Ive witnessed in my life, ExWeb Pakistan correspondent Karrar Haidri agreed.
I have never seen anything like this, UN chief Ban Ki-Moon said yesterday at a press conference held jointly with Pakistans premier.
ExWebs Karrar Haidri: report from the spot
It is the worst flood in Pakistan I have ever seen in my life, ExWeb correspondent in Pakistan Karrar Haidri stated. The international community is moving and providing aid, of course--but not as much as they did back after the 2005 earthquake, he noted.
Foreigners stuck in Skardu and Gilgit
Asked about climbers and trekking groups in affected areas, this is what Karrar had to say:
Trekkers and mountaineers are stuck in Skardu and Gilgit, but the government of Pakistan is providing them facilities. Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) is operating two daily 737 Boeing flights between Islamabad to Skardu. Pakistan army is also using a C130 aircraft to lift foreigners from Skardu and Gilgit daily. That rescue operation is performed without charge.
The KKH is blocked in four places and the main bridge near Besham has been washed-out due to floods. Local transport is available between the blocked sections, although the local transporters are charging heavy amounts to the passengers.
At the moment, the roads between Gilgit and Skardu, and linking Skardu to Askole are also blocked, but will be soon re-opened. Frontier Works Organisation (FWO--link on the left) crew is working hard to fix both the KKH and the Gilgit-Skardu road. Unluckily, due to blockage of KKH there is a shortage of food and fuel in Skardu, Gilgit and Hunza.
The Ministry of Tourism has received some cancellations from tour operators but there are also some groups arriving and other requesting permits.
The worst still to come
In terms of the death toll, with 1,600 people reported dead, this remains 100 times less than the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. However, the scale of the tragedy continues to increase, with around 14 million people in immediate need of emergency aid, Karrar refected. Many of Pakistan's bridges and roads have been destroyed, and severe weather is keeping helicopters grounded, thus slowing relief efforts. Water-borne diseases are linked to floods. The fear is that a lack of sanitation will see the fatal diarrhea disease spreading. Also, stagnant water may pose other threats, such as an increase in cases of Malaria.
UN: 20 million affected, Florida-size area flooded
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon met Sunday with Pakistan's president Asif Ali Zardari, and both men urged the international community to step up efforts to help the millions affected by flooding in Pakistan, CNN reported. Ban Ki-Moon said he has visited scenes of natural disasters worldwide, but has seen "nothing like this." He continued: "The scale of the disaster is so large--so many people and in so many places, in so much need."
One in ten Pakistanis--up to 20 million people--have been directly or indirectly affected by the flood waters, and one-fifth of Pakistan--or an area about the size of Florida--has been flooded, the UN has estimated.
Gasherbrum climbers: a tough way back
(On our trek from BC), we were unable to pass over the Gondogoro La due to the constant falling snow it has received and that the porters did not wish to risk the conditions, Altitude Junkies leader Phil Crampton reported. The drive to Skardu was hairy due to several landslides that we had to change vehicles and porter loads over. Upon arrival in Skardu we discovered the scale of the recent disaster and how many people are affected from it.
The PIA flights from Islamabad to Skardu are very sporadic at the moment so we tried to make the military C130 flight but were unable to board to due to too many passengers already on board.
The team managed to catch a PIA flight on the following day and reached Islamabad. Once in the capital of Pakistan, team member Arian Lemal posted a further update on the situation:
The road from Askole to Skardu was destroyed in several places. Our jeep managed to cross a first landslide, but we had to step off and walk across the second one on foot, then caught different jeeps on the other side until Skardu. Instead of the usual seven hours, we needed 12 to reach the town.
But the adventure was not over yet., Arian added. With the KKH blocked, the only way out was by plane, and bad weather kept the planes grounded. After three days of waiting for a miracle, the aircraft arrived at Skardu and we could go and board--what a relief!
Daniele Nardi: Paradise so close to tragedy
It seems absurd to be waiting for a weather window in order to attempt K7 summit, while tragic news reaches us from the rest of the country, Daniele Nardi reported. Its hard to believe whats going on just some miles away from this corner of paradise we are in. We considered canceling the expedition, but our return right now would be difficult. We have decided to go on with the climb, although deeply saddened.
Daniele and Lorenzo have finished seven pitches of the route that theyre climbing on K7's west face. The climbers hope to go for the final assault to the summit as soon as a weather window opens.