Interview: Hazards over burst of Hunza lake in Pakistan exaggerated: official

08:27, May 17, 2010      

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Hazards of the possible burst of the artificial lake formed after a massive landslide on north Pakistan's Hunza river are being exaggerated, said an official in the northern province of Gilgit-Baltistan.

In an exclusive interview with Xinhua, the speaker of the provincial legislative assembly Wazir Baig said that the situation caused by landsliding and the possible flood due to burst of the lake, known as Attabad Lake, amid hills was never completely out of control.

The highest office bearer in the provincial assembly said that about 4,000 people were affected and 12,000 more are feared to be affected due to the floods that caused damage to properties in several villages.

"They were shifted to safe places and tents were provided, and the officials are taking care of them," Baig said.

The government of Gilgit-Baltistan, a newly established province in the northern part of the country, and the federal government are aware of the situation and are taking necessary steps, said the speaker.

Baig, who is also a member of the assembly from Hunza, said that out of the total population of 50,000 about 12,000 poor people are living down the stream on the bank of the river and they may be affected or misplaced, however, precautionary measures have been taken.

The speaker said that Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani has allocated 120 million Pakistani rupees (about 1.4 million U.S. dollars) besides a special package for the affectees.

The Gilgit-Baltistan government has also allocated 2.5 billion rupees for the people in the area, he said.

He said that landsliding or bursting of a lake is not something new in the peculiar geography of the area. "In 1938 such a lake was created by landsliding that swept away a village in the area," he said.

Commenting on the floods that might be caused by the burst, he said that there are strong hurdles to the waters in the lake and it would never burst suddenly, adding that floods and water flow are possible but that would not be of high intensity.

"And majority of the population, schools, and other institutions are above on the hills and not downstream," he said.

Meanwhile, army engineers working in the area said that the spillway created for waterflow has reduced hazards to a large extent and now it is not so dangerous.

As the water level in the Attabad lake continues to rise, authorities have issued a deadline to 300 families of 18 villages in the surrounding area to evacuate by Monday.

After an alert from the meteorological department, the government has put rescue teams on high alert to cope with untoward situation after being warned that the lake created in Hunza valley by a massive landslide in January could be breached at any time because water was continuously flowing into it.

The meteorological department said that the problem should be resolved by May 25 otherwise there will be overflow of water. Nevertheless, precautions could dilute the damages, officials said.

However, it may cause low damages and no casualties as precautionary measures have been taken, local officials said.

The people in Hunza and surrounding areas are in grip of fear of unseen happenings that Attabad Lake might burst at any time and result in huge losses. So far about five villages were affected in the area.

Source: Xinhua


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