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A deadly winter storm brought severe impacts to millions of people from parts of the Arabian Peninsula to Pakistan beginning late last week and through the weekend.

According to media reports, at least 54 people were killed by the combination of heavy snowfall, brutal cold and severe flooding in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The storm got underway on Thursday with scattered showers and a few thunderstorms from eastern Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and far northern Oman into southern Iran.

The heaviest rain arrived across the UAE, far northern Oman and southeastern Iran late on Friday and continued into Saturday.

Widespread rainfall totals reached between 25-75 mm (1-3 inches) from Thursday to Sunday across the Middle East.

Dubai, UAE, reported 60 mm (2.35 inches) and Muscat, Oman, reported 42 mm (1.64 inches).

This magnitude of rainfall caused severe flooding and widespread travel disruptions.

Locations from Doha to Dubai and Muscat typically average 75-150 mm (3-6 inches) of rainfall for an entire year.

Across the Persian Gulf, torrential rainfall caused flooding chaos, and resulted in at least one death, according to Iran Front Page.

More than 1,000 people were rescued amid the flooding, which has left some towns completely isolated due to inundated roadways.

The worst flooding occurred in Sistan-Baluchestan province where 186 mm (7.32 inches). The yearly average total rainfall is only 119 mm (4.69 inches).

Locally heavy rainfall also spread across the lower elevations of Afghanistan and southwestern Pakistan through the end of the weekend causing significant flooding.

This storm also produced heavy snow across higher elevations from Iran into Afghanistan and northern Pakistan.

Afghanistan

As of Saturday, frigid cold ushered into the area has been blamed for four deaths in Ghazni, Afghanistan.

At least 24 totals deaths have been confirmed due to the winter storm in Afghanistan. The government added that 131 homes had been destroyed due to flooding in southern parts of the country.

Pakistan

At least 30 deaths have been reported in Pakistan due to the flooding and heavy snowfall.

Eleven people died in Punjab province due to flooding while at least 16 people were killed in snow-related events across the country as many locations reported more than 30 cm (12 inches) of heavy wet snow, which caused roofs to collapse.

Multiple avalanches were also reported in northern Pakistan. The threat for avalanches will remain high into the middle of the week.

Citing officials, a January 13, 2020 report said:

At least 11 people were killed and 12 others wounded in rain and snow-related incidents in two districts of the Pakistan-controlled Kashmir on Monday.

Ten of the people died and all injuries occurred in different villages in the upper belt of Neelum valley, towards the northeast of Muzaffarabad.

The first casualty of the day was reported from Lawat Bala village when three of nearly a dozen children who were on their way to school were struck by a huge mass of snow.

In Kandyan Wala Bela village, an avalanche struck as many as six houses. Although more than 25 inhabitants managed to rush to safety, a woman and her two children were trapped in one of the houses and could not be recovered till late evening, said Akhtar Ayub, a disaster management officer based in district headquarters Athmuqam.

Rescue work had to be stopped as a second avalanche hit their house in the evening. There were no chances of their survival. The victims are Parveen Bibi, 35, Saima, 22, and Waqar, 14.

In Khorriyan Dudhniyal village, a house was struck by a glacier, trapping seven people inside. Neighbors managed to recover six of them alive while one of them died. The deceased was identified as 14-year-old Hafeez, and the injured were his parents Mushtaq Ashraf and Qasim Jan, siblings Salma Mushtaq, Saeed Mushtaq Waheed Mushtaq and Waheed’s wife Saima.

In Shaikh Bela village of Kel, Arif, 16, and Ashraf, 32, were killed in two separate incidents after being struck by snow masses, Ayub said.

Rukhtaj Bibi, 24, and Mirza Khan, 45, were injured and recovered alive from beneath a mass of snow in Kharigam village, he added.

In Surgan Nullah area, Qadeer was killed in Bantal village and Marjan and Zakiya were killed in Surgan village after some six houses were struck by snow mounds. Zakir and his sister Gulnar were recovered alive with multiple wounds.

According to the official, altogether at least 21 houses, four shops, one mosque and two vehicles suffered damage in the affected villages.

A 17-year-old boy identified as Danish Majeed was killed in Neriyan village of district Sudhnoti after the wall of his mud-made house collapsed early morning on Monday.

Heavy snowfall and rains had blocked several arteries in high altitude areas.

As of Monday, the Neelum valley road, Leepa valley road, Chikar to Bagh road, Bagh to Lasdana road, Mehmood Galli to Abbaspur road and Tain Dhalkot road were closed for all kinds of traffic, he said.

Balochistan

Heavy snowfall and showers claimed at least 14 lives in different parts of Balochistan in Pakistan, and suspended road and air links of the country’s largest province with rest of the world on Sunday, as the unusually extreme weather system entered Pakistan.

Heavy snowfall and intermittent showers in Quetta valley and parts of northern Balochistan on Saturday brought life to a standstill with suspension of traffic between the provincial capital and Ziarat as well as the border town of Chaman.

Met officials said heavy snowfall in Quetta had already broken the 20-year record. “In Qilla Saifullah, the Met Office recorded three- to four-foot snow, which was [more than] double the usual one- to 1.5-foot snow,” said Chief Meteo­rologist Dr Azmat Hayat Khan.

An aircraft that had arrived from Saudi Arabia with passengers on Saturday night could not fly back, as Quetta airport runway remained covered with heavy snow, sources said.

Coming from KP, Sindh and Punjab, hundreds of passengers were stranded on different highways linking Balochistan. The Quetta-Karachi highway was blocked at Luck-Pass area, Quetta-Sibi highway was closed for traffic between Kolpur and Mach, as the area continued to receive heavy snowfall.

Official sources said traffic was also suspended at Quetta-Chaman highway as the Khozak-Pass linking Pakistan with Afghanistan also received heavy snowfall, bringing halt to the Afghan transit trade as hundreds of trucks and other goods vehicles remained stranded on both sides of the Pak-Afghan border.

While the passengers stuck up in the Kan Mehtarzai area were rescued by army troops and Frontier Corps personnel who removed snow from the highway, many others coming from Dalbandin towards Mashkel were not as fortunate after heavy rainfall with flash floods hit most parts of Chagai district. Soon after receiving information through local WhatsApp groups, Levies Force and FC personnel rescued a few people but could not reach the point where a majority of them have been waiting for help since Saturday night.

Chagai Deputy Commissioner Fateh Khan Khajjak said their own vehicles were stranded when he along with Levies Force personnel reached the Kaachar area and rescued 13 people.

“Several people with their vehicles are still waiting for help but unfortunately those areas cannot be reached without helicopter. I have made a request for provision of the helicopter to the provincial disaster management authority. Hopefully, it would be provided to us as soon as possible,” Khajjak said.

Around two dozen passengers, including women and children seated in four vehicles, were trapped in the far-flung area of Kaachar close to Pak-Iran border. Official sources said army and personnel of Frontier Corps were making efforts to rescue them.

The new spell of heavy snowfall that started on Saturday night in Quetta continued with small intervals in Ziarat, Kan Mehtarzai, Muslim Bagh, Sanjavi, Khanozai, Zhob, Qila Saifullah, Qila Abdullah, Kalat, Mastung, Harboi, Surab, Khuzdar and many other areas of northern Balochistan.

According to the reports reaching here in Quetta, due to continuous snowfall a large number of mud houses had collapsed or were damaged, claiming lives in the border town of Chaman, Barshor and Bostan area of Pishin district. Six people, including three women and three children, died and two others were injured when roof of their house collapsed in Shahabzai area of Zhob district due to heavy snowfall.

In Killi Luqman area near the Pak-Afghan border in Chaman, five members of a family, including women and children, died and six others were injured when the roof of a mud house collapsed during an engagement ceremony in the late evening hours. Two children died and two others suffered injuries when the roof of the room caved-in in Killi Chukal area of Pishin district, while another woman lost her life in a similar incident. Sources in Civil Hospital Quetta said that over a dozen people injured in snowfall-related traffic accidents were brought to the hospital for treatment.

Heavy rains were also reported in Makran division that fills up Mirani, Shadi Kur and Akra Kur, Sward and Bilar dams in Gwadar and Kech districts. Water level in the seasonal rivers of Dashat and Nehag as well as other small rivers had risen after the catchment areas of these rivers received heavy showers.

There were reports that a small dam was broken in the Mand area of Kech district, which damaged mud houses. However, no human loss had been reported yet.

The spillways of the dams were opened to release floodwater after filling of all the dams in the area.

Dr Azmat Hayat Khan said it was unusual pattern of weather due to global warming. He said the extreme weather system had produced heavy rainfall in the UAE and snowfall in Tabuq area of Saudi Arabia a few days ago. He said the extreme weather system could cause heavy showers and snowfall in Balochistan.

He said the winter season may be prolonged and more rains expected in March and April also. He said the minimum temperature during this whole period would remain low.

Snowfall that started early morning continued throughout the day with a brief interval.

Below zero

Temperatures fell below freezing point after fresh spell of snowfall in the mountainous region of Swat, upper parts of Hazara, Shangla, Kurram district and Gilgit-Baltistan.

In Mingora, the snowfall started on Saturday morning and continued till Tuesday in the high altitude areas of Swat valley.

The mountainous regions received heavy snowfall. The average temperature in the lower parts remained -2 while in Kalam, Matiltan, Gabral and Ushu region the mercury was at -6.

In Mansehra, the Karakoram Highway was blocked in Chatterplan area following heavy snowfall in upper parts of Hazara on Sunday.

The KKH remained blocked for over two hours after heavy snowfall in mountainous parts of Mansehra, Torghar, Upper Kohistan, Lower Kohistan and Kolai Palas district.

The passengers travelling between Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and motorists remained stranded on both sides. The upper parts of Hazara are in grip of severe cold.

In Shangla, another spell of snowfall started on Saturday night and continued on Sunday pushing the mercury below the freezing point again.

The main road leading to Puran was also blocked due to heavy snowfall and public transport vehicles were stuck on the way. However, Bisham-Swat road remained open to light traffic.

Yakhtangy received up to four feet of snow and Shangla Top three feet while Ajmir, Kandaw, Lilonai, Shahpur, Damorai, Faiz Dara, Belkanai and Chakesar received snowfall of up to two feet paralyzing the routine life in the district.

In Parachinar, the snowfall started in Kurram district on Saturday and continued on Sunday, adding chill to the already biting cold.

In Gilgit-Baltistan, the snowfall brought life to a standstill on Sunday.

Heavy snowfall has blocked most of the link roads and temperatures dropped to -16, forcing people to remain indoors while power outages were also reported.

According to official sources, heavy snowfall occurred across Gilgit-Baltistan in the last two days, blocking link roads in upper areas of Skardu, Shigar, Kharmang, Ghanche Nagar, Hunza, Ghizer, Astore and Diamer.

The educational institutions have already been closed for winter vacations.

Attendance remained thin in offices that remained open on Saturday.

People have been facing problems as prices of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and firewood had registered a significant increase.

Rural residents

The snow has brought with it more problems for rural residents of Murree and the Galiyat, whose link roads are not cleared for days and weeks after it snows. Water also freezes, and there are few heat sources for them to turn to.

Wajid Abbasi, who lives in Mussiyarri village, said the highway department only clears and salts main roads, but gives no attention to link roads that cater to more than 80pc of the population of Murree natives.

At least 30 villages including Namli Mera, Keri Raieky, Kala Bagh, Ziarat Masoom, Bakot, Phalkot, Bagan, Ayubia, Jsatar, are completely disconnected from Nathiagali due to the weather.

The road leading from Abbottabad to Nathiagali has been completely closed off for all sorts of traffic from Bagnoter onward and Abbottabad-Thandiyani road has been blocked from Kala Pani.

Rawalpindi

Clear weather has been forecast for the next two days in Rawalpindi and Islamabad after two days of rainfall, with fog and a cold wave expected in the area once again.

The twin cities saw light rainfall on Tuesday that turned the weather even colder. The rain created a mess in downtown Rawalpindi and in Islamabad’s surrounding areas.

Lahore

Temperatures dropped to 2°C earlier in the week, a cold wave gripped Lahore, forcing people to remain indoors to stay warm.

The most alarming feature of the season was not the mist and fog that leads to zero visibility. This has not been witnessed in over 35 years.

Heavy flooding in southeastern Iran leaves casualties

An Iran Front Page (IFP) report by the IFP editorial staff said on January 13, 2020:

Heavy floods in Sistan and Baluchestan, an already underdeveloped province in south-east of Iran, as well as two adjacent provinces have so far killed one, wounded several, and displaced thousands of others.

The severe rainfall and flooding blocked roads, destroyed houses and displaced thousands of people in southeastern provinces of Kerman and Sistan and Baluchestan as well as Hormozgan Province in the south over the past two days.

Morteza Salimi, the head of Rescue and Relief Organization of Iran, says one person has lost his life and another one remains missing. Several others have also been injured, according to reports.

Flooding has also blocked rural roads link more than 500 villages, officials said.

In some 40 town and villages in Sistan and Baluchestan, authorities rescued at least 1,248 people and provided emergency accommodation for some 327 people.


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