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Glacial lake outburst sweeps away bridge on KKH

Hunza’s Hassanabad bridge on the Karakoram Highway (KKH) was destroyed and swept away by a glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) from the Shishper Glacier on Saturday.

Gilgit-Baltistan tourist police confirmed the news, adding that traffic had been diverted to an alternate route on Sas Valley Road. Footage shared on social media showed rampaging floodwaters tearing and sweeping away a section of the bridge. Hunza Superintendent of Police (SP) Zahoor Ahmed said the glacier started melting on Saturday due to heat and caused a flood that damaged the bridge and rendered it unusable for traffic.

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He said tourists were facing difficulties and had been provided alternate routes through Ganish and Murtazabad. He added that tourist police were also appointed at various spots to prevent any inconvenience for tourists. The SP said that families near the drain were shifted to safer places and the entire administration, including police and rescue services, were on alert due to the emergency situation. Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Secretary Mohyuddin Ahmad Wani said that the National Highway Authority (NHA) and the Frontier Works Organisation had assured him that the bridge would be repaired soon.

The chief secretary also directed GB Home Secretary Iqbal Hussain, Gilgit’s commissioner and deputy commissioners of the districts concerned to take immediate steps for the restoration of the bridge and.

According to information from the chief secretary’s office, the supply of provisions and fuel to the tourists was also being ensured along with rehabilitation and rations for the affected families. It added that two power plants of Hassanabad were also swept away.

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Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman warned that there were many such vulnerable areas in GB and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. “Pakistan has the highest number of glaciers outside the polar region and many are losing mass due to high global temperatures,” she pointed out. She had earlier cautioned the provincial disaster management authorities and home departments that due to an increase in regional temperatures, there was a possibility of GLOF events and flash floods in GB and KP. Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said the melting of glaciers was a “matter of concern”. He added that collective efforts at the international level were needed to tackle climate change.

“The situation arising out of lake eruption on Shishper Glacier needs to be dealt with on an urgent basis. The government must ensure that local communities are not harmed in any way and land routes remain open.

“Hopefully, the administration will ensure that ordinary people and tourists do not face difficulties,” FM Bilawal said. GB Environmental Protection Agency Director Shahzad Shigri said climate change had accelerated the melting of glaciers in the region and posed a serious threat to the population.



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