Avalanche in Astore, Gilgit-Baltistan, on May 27, 2023-1685196673789
Rescue teams and police officials at the site where an avalanche struck in the Shounter Top area in the Astore district of northern Gilgit-Baltistan region on May 27, 2023. Image Credit: GB Information Department

Islamabad:  An avalanche in the Astore district in Pakistan’s northern Gilgit-Baltistan region on Saturday has swept at least 11 people, the officials said.

Search and rescue teams recovered the bodies of the eight victims and are still actively searching for those missing, the local commissioner’s office said.

The operation is being conducted in the snow-covered mountains of the Shounter Top area in Astore. At least 13 injured individuals including one child were promptly evacuated by Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) authorities.

Several injured are reported to be in critical condition and are currently receiving treatment at the Astore district headquarters (DHQ) hospital, the GB information department said.

The number of fatalities may rise as challenging snow conditions and limited accessibility were hampering rescue efforts.

“The area is snow-bound and completely cut off from internet and phone coverage, with no road access available,” Diamer Commissioner Altamash Janjua told Gulf News.

Helicopter service

GB Chief Minister Muhammad Khalid Khurshid Khan expressed deep sorrow over the loss of lives in the avalanche and directed all relevant departments and institutions to continue rescue and relief operations without delay. Pakistan Army’s Force Command Northern Areas (FCNA) is providing helicopter service to assist the rescue mission.

Located in the Diamer division, Astore is one of the 14 districts of Gilgit-Baltistan. The area that has been hit by the avalanche is primarily inhabited by nomadic herders, called ‘bakarwal’ locally, who wander in search of good pastures for their cattle.

The Himalayan Karakorum Hindukush Mountain region, which is home to the second longest non-polar glacier in the world, is particularly prone to climate change-induced hazards such as floods, avalanches, landslides, and glacier lake outburst floods due to glacial melt.