India, Pakistan Must Brace For Even Worse Heatwaves

Monkeys sit in shade inside a temple on a hot summer day in Allahabad on May 6, 2022. (Photo by SANJAY KANOJIA / AFP)

 

 

The devastating heatwave that gripped India and Pakistan over the last two months is unprecedented, but worse — perhaps far worse — is on the horizon as climate change continues apace, top climate scientists said. 

Even without additional global warming South Asia is, statistically speaking, ripe for a “big one” in the same way that California is said to be overdue for a major earthquake, according to research published this week.

Extreme heat across much of India and neighbouring Pakistan in March and April exposed more than a billion people to scorching temperatures well above 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit). The hottest part of the year is yet to come.

“This heatwave is likely to kill thousands,” tweeted Robert Rohde, lead scientist at Berkeley Earth, a climate science research non-profit.

The number of excess deaths, especially among the elderly poor, will only become apparent in hindsight.

Heatwave mortality in India has increased by more than 60 percent since 1980, according to the country’s Ministry of Earth Sciences.

But “cascading impacts” on agricultural output, water, energy supplies and other sectors are already apparent, World Meteorological Organization chief Petteri Taalas said this week.

Air quality has deteriorated, and large swathes of land are at risk of extreme fire danger.

Power blackouts last week as electricity demand hit record levels served as a warning of what might happen if temperatures were to climb even higher.

For climate scientists, none of this came as a surprise.

“What I find unexpected is most people being shocked, given how long we have been warned about such disasters coming,” Camilo Mora, a professor at the University of Hawaii, told AFP.

“This region of the world, and most other tropical areas, are among the most vulnerable to heatwaves.”

 

Men take rest on a platform at Daraganj railway station on a hot summer day in Allahabad on May 6, 2022. (Photo by SANJAY KANOJIA / AFP)

 

– The new normal –
In a benchmark 2017 study, Mora calculated that nearly half the global population will be exposed to “deadly heat” 20 days or more each year by 2100, even if global warming is capped under two degrees Celsius, the cornerstone target of the Paris Agreement.

To what extent is climate change to blame for the scorched Earth temperatures just now easing up in India and Pakistan?

Scientists at Imperial College London’s Grantham Institute led by Friederike Otto, a pioneer in the field of attribution science, are crunching the numbers.

“How much more likely and intense this particular heatwave has become is something we’re still working on,” she told AFP.

“But there is no doubt that climate change is a huge game changer when it comes to extreme heat,” she added. “What we see right now will be normal, if not cool, in a 2C to 3C world.”

Earth’s surface, on average, is 1.1C above preindustrial levels. National carbon cutting pledges under the Paris Agreement, if fulfilled, would still see the world warm 2.8 degrees.

In India and Pakistan, “more intense heat waves of longer durations and occurring at a higher frequency are projected,” the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in a recent landmark report.

“Before human activities increased global temperatures, we would have seen the heat that hit India around once in 50 years,” said Marian Zachariah, a researcher at Imperial College London.

“But now we can expect such high temperatures about once ever four years.”

Continued global warming, in other words, guarantees greater heat extremes in the coming decades.

– Wet-bulb temperature –
But things may get worse even sooner, according to a new study in Science Advances.

A team led by Vikki Thompson of Bristol University ranked the world’s most severe heatwaves since 1960. Their benchmark, however, was not maximum temperatures, but how hot it got compared to what would be expected for the region.

Surprisingly, South Asia was nowhere near the top of the list.

“When defined in terms of deviation from the local norm, heatwaves in India and Pakistan to date have not been all that extreme,” Thompson explained in a commentary.

By that measure, the worst scorcher on record over the last six decades was in Southeast Asia in 1998.

“An equivalent outlier heatwave in India today would mean temperatures over 50C across large swathes of the country,” Thompson said.

“Statistically, a record-breaking heatwave is likely to occur in India at some point.”

What makes extreme heat deadly is high temperatures combined with humidity, a steam-bath mix with its own yardstick: wet-bulb temperature (WB).

When the body overheats, the heart ups the tempo and sends blood to the skin where sweating cools it down. But above a threshold of heat-plus-humidity this natural cooling system shuts down.

“Think of it as a sunburn but inside your body,” said Mora.

A wet-bulb temperature of 35C WB will kill a healthy young adult within six hours. Last week, the central Indian city of Nagpur briefly registered 32.2 WB.

“The rise in heatwaves, floods, cyclones and droughts that we have seen in this region so far are in response to just one degree Celsius,” Roxy Mathew Koll, a climate scientist at Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, told AFP.

“It is difficult for me to even imagine the impacts when the increase in global temperatures are doubled.”

Chinese Nationals Among Four Killed By Woman Suicide Bomber In Pakistan

Rangers check motorcyclists at a security checkpoint set up near a university gate a day after a suicide attack on a van near the Confucius institute which is the cultural programme that China operates at universities around the world at the Karachi University in Karachi on April 27, 2022. AFP

 

A woman suicide bomber from a Pakistan separatist group killed four people, including three Chinese nationals, in an attack on a minibus carrying staff from a Beijing cultural programme at Karachi University on Tuesday.

The Baloch Liberation Army — one of several groups fighting for independence in Pakistan’s biggest province — claimed responsibility, saying it was their first suicide attack by a woman assailant.

Chinese targets have regularly been attacked by separatists from Balochistan, where Beijing is involved in huge infrastructure projects as part of its Belt and Road Initiative.

CCTV footage broadcast by local channels showed a woman standing near the gate of a Confucius Institute — the cultural programme that China operates at universities around the world — as a minibus pulls up.

When the vehicle gets to within a metre she turns her back on it and detonates a bomb strapped to her body.

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“We were having a meeting at the dean’s office when we heard the deafening blast,” said Naeema Saeed, a professor at the university’s criminology department.

“It seemed that the roof was falling or the earth was torn. We all rushed outside. We looked around and saw smoke rising.”

Baloch separatists have long harboured resentment against lucrative mining and energy projects in the region, saying locals do not see the benefits and are being pushed off their land.

The “Baloch Liberation Army accepts responsibility of today’s self-sacrificing attack”, the group’s spokesman, Jeeyand Baloch, said in a statement published in English on Telegram.

The group released a picture of the woman they said was the bomber, naming her as “Shari Baloch alias Bramsh”. She is dressed in military fatigues and a cap, smiling broadly and raising two fingers.

Karachi police confirmed four people had died, including the minibus driver and three staff from the Confucius Institute.

China’s embassy in Islamabad said all three citizens killed in the attack were teachers at the institute, and that a fourth had been injured.

It also warned its nationals to pay close attention to security and “not go out unless necessary”.

“At the same time”, the embassy said in a statement, “all levels in Pakistan are requested to take practical and effective measures to do everything possible to ensure the safety of Chinese citizens, institutions and projects in Pakistan and ensure that similar incidents do not occur again.”

PM Condemns Attack 


Rangers stand guard nearby the blast site a day after a suicide attack on a van near the Confucius institute which is the cultural programme that China operates at universities around the world at the Karachi University in Karachi on April 27, 2022. Rizwan TABASSUM / AFP

 

Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif immediately condemned the attack.

“I am deeply grieved on the loss of precious lives including of our Chinese friends in the heinous attack in Karachi today,” he tweeted.

Sharif only took over as premier after Imran Khan was ousted by a no-confidence vote earlier this month, and tackling a resurgence in militancy will be one of his biggest challenges.

“I strongly condemn this cowardly act of terrorism,” Sharif said, adding “the perpetrators will surely be brought to justice”.

In February, Baloch separatists staged four days of attacks across two locations in the province, killing nine soldiers.

Tensions have flared in recent years in Balochistan following a massive influx of Chinese investment.

China is upgrading energy links and infrastructure as part of a $54 billion programme known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, with both nations wary of security threats to the projects.

In April 2021 a suicide bomb attack at a luxury hotel hosting the Chinese ambassador in Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan, killed four and wounded dozens.

The ambassador was unhurt.

In July last year, a bus carrying engineers to a construction site near a dam in northwestern Pakistan was hit by a bomb, killing 13 people including nine Chinese workers.

The attack frayed relations between Islamabad and Beijing, and Pakistan later paid millions in compensation to the families of the Chinese workers killed.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry said Tuesday’s suicide blast was “a direct attack on… Pakistan-China friendship and ongoing cooperation”.

“Pakistan attaches great importance to safety and security of Chinese nationals, projects and institutions in Pakistan,” it said in a statement.

AFP

Imran Khan Ousted As Pakistan PM

Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician and then-head of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), Imran Khan, gestures as he delivers a speech during an election campaign rally in Islamabad.  AAMIR QURESHI / AFP

 

Imran Khan was dismissed Sunday as Pakistan’s prime minister after losing a no-confidence vote in parliament following weeks of political turmoil.

A new premier will be chosen Monday, with Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) chief Shehbaz Sharif almost certain to be picked to lead the nuclear-armed nation of 220 million people.

No prime minister has ever served a full term in Pakistan, but Khan is the first to lose office this way.

Opposition supporters took to the streets early Sunday, waving national and party flags from car windows as they raced through the streets.

There had been a massive security presence in the capital, but no incidents were reported.

Acting speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq said 174 lawmakers had voted in favour of the motion, “consequently the vote of no confidence has passed”.

Khan, 69, who was not present, lost his majority in the 342-seat assembly through defections by coalition partners and even members of his own party, and the opposition had needed just 172 votes to dismiss him.

He tried everything to stay in power — including dissolving parliament and calling a fresh election — but the Supreme Court deemed all his actions illegal last week and ordered the assembly to reconvene and vote.

There was drama right until the midnight deadline ordered by the Supreme Court, with the speaker of the assembly — a Khan loyalist — resigning at the last minute.

In the end, the session continued through to Sunday with a replacement.

“We will put a balm on the wounds of this nation,” Sharif said immediately after the result was announced.

 Militancy on the rise

Whoever takes over will still have to deal with the issues that bedevilled Khan: soaring inflation, a feeble rupee and crippling debt.

Militancy is also on the rise, with Pakistan’s Taliban emboldened by the return to power last year of the hardline Islamist group in neighbouring Afghanistan.

Tempers rose in the assembly when Sharif insisted a vote be held immediately — as ordered by the Supreme Court on Thursday — but Khan loyalists demanded discussion first on their leader’s claims there had been foreign interference in the process.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi accused the opposition of leading the country down a dangerous path.

“History will expose all those, who set the stage for this move to topple the government,” he said, to chants of “vote, vote” from the opposition.

Khan insists he has been the victim of a “regime change” conspiracy involving the United States.

He said the PML-N and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) — two normally feuding dynastic groups who joined forces to oust him — had conspired with Washington to bring the no-confidence vote because of his opposition to US foreign policy, particularly in Muslim nations such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

He also accused the opposition of buying support in the assembly with “open horse-trading… selling of lawmakers like goats and sheep”.

How long the next government lasts is also a matter of speculation.

The opposition said previously they wanted an early election — which must be called by October next year — but taking power gives them the opportunity to set their own agenda and end a string of probes they said Khan launched vindictively against them.

Local media quoted an election commission official as saying it would take them at least seven months to prepare for a national vote.

Publicly, the military appears to be keeping out of the current fray, but there have been four coups since independence in 1947, and the country has spent more than three decades under army rule.

AFP

‘Fake’ US Agent Claimed Ties To Pakistan Intelligence

Fake agent who cozied up to secret service claimed to have Pakistani spy ties, FEDs say

 

 

One of two men arrested in Washington for posing as US federal security officials and cultivating access to the Secret Service, which protects President Joe Biden, claimed ties to Pakistani intelligence, a federal prosecutor told a judge Thursday.

Justice Department assistant attorney Joshua Rothstein asked a judge not to release Arian Taherzadeh, 40, and Haider Ali, 35, the men arrested Wednesday for posing as Department of Homeland Security investigators.

The men also stand accused of providing lucrative favors to members of the Secret Service, including one agent on the security detail of First Lady Jill Biden.

Rothstein told the court that in 2019, just months before the two began cultivating security professionals in their Washington apartment building, Ali had travelled to Pakistan, Turkey, Iran and Qatar, and transited Doha multiple times.

In addition, Rothstein said, Ali “made claims to witnesses that he had connections to the ISI, which is the Pakistani intelligence service.”

The Justice Department is treating the case as a criminal matter and not a national security issue. But the Secret Service suspended four agents over their involvement with the suspects.

“All personnel involved in this matter are on administrative leave and are restricted from accessing Secret Service facilities, equipment, and systems,” the Secret Service said in a statement.

According to an affidavit filed with the court, Taherzadeh and Ali, both US citizens, lived in an apartment building in Washington where numerous federal security-related employees live.

They convinced some of those agents that they themselves were special Homeland Security investigators, displaying uniforms and documents in support of those claims.

Both were initially charged with one count of false impersonation of an officer of the United States, which could bring up to three years in prison.

But Rothstein told the court that the charge could be expanded to conspiracy, which carries a maximum of five years in prison.

The motives of the two men were unclear, but at one point they recruited a third person to work for them, assigning him “to conduct research on an individual that provided support to the Department of Defense and intelligence community.”

Taherzadeh meanwhile provided several Secret Service and Homeland Security employees with rent-free units costing as much as $4,000 a month, according to the affidavit.

He also gave them iPhones, surveillance systems, a television, and law enforcement paraphernalia, according to the affidavit.

Taherzadeh offered a $2,000 assault rifle to the Secret Service agent who worked on the first lady’s team, and did favors for the agent’s wife, including lending her his car.

The affidavit said Taherzadeh and Ali appeared to control several units in the apartment complex, and that Taherzadeh had access to the building’s entire security system.

Like many in law enforcement, the two drove large black GMC SUVs with emergency lights.

Taherzadeh carried handguns that are used by US federal law enforcement, and demonstrated to others that he had secure access to what appeared to be Homeland Security computer systems.

In the defendants’ first court appearance, the prosecutor sought to prevent them from being granted bail.

But neither had secured full legal representation and the judge put the decision off for a second hearing on Friday.

India Accidentally Fires Missile Into Pakistan

(File Photo) Missiles

 

India’s military accidentally fired a missile into neighbouring Pakistan, New Delhi’s defence ministry said on Friday, calling it “deeply regrettable”.

Hindu-majority India and Muslim Pakistan have fought three wars since independence from British colonial rule in 1947, two of them over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

Their shared border has a heavy military presence on both sides, and there have been numerous flare-ups between them, with tensions sometimes raising fears of an atomic exchange.

“In the course of a routine maintenance, a technical malfunction led to the accidental firing of a missile” on Wednesday, India’s defence ministry said.

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It did not specify the type of missile, but said it landed “in an area of Pakistan”.

The incident was “deeply regrettable”, it said, adding that it was “a matter of relief that there has been no loss of life due to the accident”.

The defence ministry declined to provide further information to AFP.

The statement came hours after Islamabad’s foreign ministry condemned what it called an “unprovoked violation of its airspace by an Indian origin ‘super-sonic flying object'”.

India’s charge d’affaires in Islamabad had been summoned to the foreign office for a “strong protest”, it added.

The “imprudent launch” had damaged property on the ground and put at risk both civilian lives and aircraft in Pakistani airspace, it said, accusing India of “callousness towards regional peace and stability”.

New Delhi has more than 500,000 troops stationed in Indian-administered Kashmir, where rebel groups have battled for decades for the region’s independence or its merger with Pakistan.

New Delhi accuses Islamabad of backing the insurgents, which it denies.

Indian aircraft bombed what New Delhi called a terrorist training camp deep inside Pakistan in 2019 after a suicide bombing claimed by a Pakistan-based militant group killed 40 Indian troops.

In aerial skirmishes over Kashmir the next day, at least one Indian jet was shot down and its pilot captured by Pakistan, but Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan had him released in a “peace gesture”.

AFP

At Least 30 Dead In Suicide Attack On Pakistan Shiite Mosque

Relatives mourn the death of their relatives outside a hospital following a bomb blast at a mosque in Peshawar on March 4, 2022.  (Photo by Abdul MAJEED / AFP)

 

 

At least 30 people were killed and 80 wounded in a suicide attack at a Shiite mosque on Friday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar, where rescuers frantically ferried the dead and wounded from the scene. 

One witness saw the attacker enter the mosque before Friday prayers and open “fire with a pistol”, picking out the worshippers “one-by-one”.

He “then blew himself up”, Ali Asghar said.

 

A soldier stands guard inside a mosque after a bomb blast in Peshawar on March 4, 2022. (Photo by Abdul MAJEED / AFP)

 

The attack comes on the first day of a cricket Test match in Rawalpindi — around 190 kilometres (120 miles) to the east — between Pakistan and Australia, who haven’t toured the country in nearly a quarter of a century because of security concerns.

Muhammad Ali Saif, a spokesman for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government, told AFP “more than 30” were killed and some 80 others wounded in the blast near Peshawar’s Kocha Risaldar, a similar distance west of the capital Islamabad.

“It was a suicide attack,” he said.

 

Medical staff and men help move an injured blast victim outside a hospital after a bomb blast at a mosque in Peshawar on March 4, 2022.  (Photo by Abdul MAJEED / AFP)

 

 

People help to move a victim outside a hospital following a bomb blast at a mosque in Peshawar on March 4, 2022.  (Photo by Abdul MAJEED / AFP)

 

An AFP reporter saw body parts strewn at the site, where desperate family members were held back by police. The explosion blew out the windows of nearby buildings.

“I saw a man firing at two policemen before he entered the mosque. Seconds later I heard a big bang,” said witness Zahid Khan.

 

People help an injured man outside a hospital following a bomb blast at a mosque in Peshawar on March 4, 2022.  (Photo by Abdul MAJEED / AFP)

 

 

Rescue personnel push a stretcher with the body of a victim after a bomb blast at a mosque in Peshawar on March 4, 2022.  (Photo by Abdul MAJEED / AFP)

 

– Police officers shot –
Peshawar police chief Muhammad Ijaz Khan told AFP the death toll could be higher than 30 and that two attackers were involved.

He said two police officers were shot at the entrance of the mosque.

“One policeman died on the spot while the other was critically injured,” he said.

Muhammad Asim Khan, a spokesman for Peshawar’s Lady Reading Hospital said “we have declared an emergency at the hospitals and more injured are being brought”.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Imran Khan’s office said he “strongly condemned” the attack.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the apparent suicide bombing.

 

An injured man (R) uses a mobile phone outside a hospital following a bomb blast at a mosque in Peshawar on March 4, 2022.  (Photo by Abdul MAJEED / AFP)

 

 

People gather next to the bodies of victims outside a hospital following bomb blast at a mosque in Peshawar on March 4, 2022. (Photo by Abdul MAJEED / AFP)

 

Peshawar — just 50 kilometres from the porous border with Afghanistan — was a frequent target of militants in the early 2010s but security has greatly improved in recent years.

Sunni majority Pakistan has recently been battling a resurgence of its domestic chapter of the Taliban, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

A one-month truce last year failed to hold and there are fears the TTP — which has targeted Shia Muslims in the past — has been emboldened by the success of the Afghan Taliban.

Shiites in the region have also been targeted by the regional iteration of the Islamic State group, Islamic State Khorasan (ISK).

At least 31 people were killed in a suicide blast at a crowded market in Peshawar in 2018.

At least 88 people died and hundreds more were wounded a year earlier when a suicide bomber blew himself up among a crowd of devotees at a revered Sufi shrine in southern Sindh province.

At Least 21 Die In Vehicles Trapped By Pakistan Snowstorm

In this handout photograph released by Pakistan's Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) on January 8, 2022 shows army soldiers take part in a rescue operation to clear a road covered with snow in Murree, around 70 kilometres (45 miles) northeast of the capital, Islamabad after an incident where at least 21 people died in an enormous traffic jam caused by tens of thousands of visitors thronging to a Pakistani hill town to see unusually heavy snowfall. Inter Services Public Relations / AFP
In this handout photograph released by Pakistan’s Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) on January 8, 2022 shows army soldiers take part in a rescue operation to clear a road covered with snow in Murree, around 70 kilometres (45 miles) northeast of the capital, Islamabad. Inter Services Public Relations / AFP

 

At least 21 people died in an enormous traffic jam caused by tens of thousands of visitors thronging a Pakistani hill town to see unusually heavy snowfall, authorities said Saturday.

Police reported that at least eight people had frozen to death in their cars, while it was not immediately clear if others had died from asphyxiation after inhaling exhaust fumes in snow-bound vehicles.

Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid said the military had mobilised to clear roads and rescue thousands still trapped near Murree, around 70 kilometres (45 miles) northeast of the capital, Islamabad.

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Video shared on social media showed cars packed bumper-to-bumper, with one-metre-high (three-foot) piles of snow on their roofs.

“The heavy snowfall caused a traffic jam and the closure of roads,” Babar Khan, a tourist who was stranded for hours, told AFP by phone.

“Roads were also closed due to falling trees in many places.”

The website of Pakistan’s National Weather Forecasting Centre said heavy snowfall was expected in the area until Sunday afternoon, while Information Minister Fawad Chaudry said “decades” of weather records had been broken in the last 48 hours.

For days, Pakistan’s social media has been full of pictures and videos of people playing in the snow around Murree, a picturesque resort town built by the British in the 19th century as a sanatorium for its colonial troops.

The Punjab province chief minister’s office said the surroundings had been declared a “disaster area” and urged people to stay away.

Prime Minister Imran Khan said he was shocked and upset at the tragedy.

“Unprecedented snowfall & rush of ppl proceeding without checking weather conditions caught district admin unprepared,” he tweeted.

“Have ordered inquiry & putting in place strong regulation to ensure prevention of such tragedies.”

Traffic warning

Authorities warned last weekend that too many vehicles were trying to enter Murree, but that failed to discourage hordes of daytrippers from the capital.

“It’s not only the tourists, but the local population is also facing severe problems,” Usman Abbasi, another stranded visitor, told AFP.

“Gas cylinders have run out and drinking water is not available in most areas — it’s either frozen or the water pipes have been damaged due to severe cold.”

He said hotels were running out of food, and mobile phone services were patchy.

“People are facing a terrible situation.”

The town of around 30,000, at an altitude of 2,300 metres (7,500 feet), clings to the sides of steep hills and valleys and is serviced by narrow roads that are frequently clogged even in good weather.

Sheikh Rashid said residents had sheltered people trapped in the town and provided blankets and food to those they could reach on the outskirts.

Authorities said schools and government buildings had taken in those who could make it to the town from the clogged roads.

Helicopters were also on standby for when the weather cleared.

Rescue 1122, Pakistan’s emergency service, released a list naming 21 people it said had been confirmed dead.

It included a policeman, his wife and their six children.

Hasaan Khawar, a spokesman for the Punjab government, said they had frozen to death inside their snow-covered car.

Rescue 1122 said another family, of five, was also among the dead.

 

AFP

At Least 12 Killed In Pakistan Gas Blast

Rescuers carry the body of a victim who died in a gas blast in Karachi on December 18, 2021, as at least 12 people were killed and several more injured. Rizwan TABASSUM / AFP

 

At least 12 people were killed and several more injured Saturday by a gas blast in Pakistan’s port city of Karachi, police said.

The explosion went off in a bank building in the Sher Shah area and social media and TV footage showed the two-floor structure’s windows and doors blown out, with documents scattered across a wide area.

Cars and motorcycles parked nearby were also damaged.

Provincial police told AFP a bomb disposal squad was investigating, but “apparently the leakage of gas was the cause”.

They said 12 people had been confirmed killed, and 13 were being treated for injuries.

Explosions caused by faulty gas cylinders — which are used for cooking as well as in cars –- are common in Pakistan.

Karachi, which is responsible for 60 percent of Pakistan’s economic output, has long endured creaky infrastructure, illegal construction and failing municipal services.

AFP

Bus Plunges Into Ditch, Kills 20 In Pakistan

Pakistan map

 

At least 20 people including children were killed on Wednesday when a bus plunged into a ravine in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, officials said.

“The bus carrying up to 40 passengers was going to Rawalpindi when it plunged into a deep ravine while negotiating a sharp turn,” local disaster management authority official Raja Moazzam told AFP.

He blamed speeding for the accident and said “authorities are trying to retrieve bodies and injured from the wreckage”.

The accident took place in the remote area some 160 kilometers (95 miles) east of Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

Another local administration official also confirmed the accident and put the toll at 23.

Pakistan has an appalling record of fatal road and rail accidents due to poor roads badly maintained vehicles and reckless driving.

At least 63 people were killed in June when a high-speed passenger train knifed through carriages of another express that had derailed minutes earlier in Sindh province.

20 Killed, Hundreds Wounded As Quake Rattles Pakistan


Residents gather next to the debris of their houses that collapsed following an earthquake in the remote mountainous district of Harnai on October 7, 2021, as around 20 people were killed and more than 200 injured when a shallow earthquake hit southwestern Pakistan in the early hours of October 7. Banaras KHAN / AFP

 

At least 20 people were killed and dozens injured when a shallow earthquake hit southwestern Pakistan in the early hours of Thursday, with rescuers trying to reach coal miners reportedly trapped underground.

Many of the victims died when the roofs and walls of their mud brick houses collapsed after the 5.9 magnitude quake struck Balochistan province in darkness at around three in the morning.

It was felt across at least six cities and towns, but the worst-affected area was the remote mountainous district of Harnai, where landslides triggered by the jolt blocked some roads, hampering rescue efforts.

Authorities are also contending with phone and electricity outages after pylons were damaged.

“We are receiving information that 20 people have been killed due to the earthquake,” said Balochistan’s home minister Mir Zia ullah Langau, adding that 100 people were injured.

“It is safe to say that hundreds of mud houses were damaged.”

A woman and six children were among 20 dead, Suhail Anwar Hashmi, the top government official in Harnai district told AFP, putting the number of injured at around 200.

“There are reports that some 15 coal miners are trapped in a mine on the outskirts of the town due to the quake,” he added, saying a rescue team had been dispatched.

It is common in Pakistan for miners to work at night when temperatures are cooler.

Army helicopters were helping to evacuate the injured from remote areas to Quetta, the nearest major city.

Naseer Nasar, the head of Balochistan’s Provincial Disaster Management Authority, warned the death toll could rise.

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Hospital Works by Torchlight 


This handout photograph taken on October 7, 2021 and released by Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) shows injured earthquake survivors being transported in a Pakistan’s army helicopter following an earthquake in the remote mountainous district of Harnai.
Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority / AFP

 

“Our rescue teams have cleared 50 per cent of the roads leading to the Harnai while remaining roads will be cleared in the next two to three hours,” Balochistan’s home minister Langau added, highlighting the strain rescue teams were under.

The quake caused electricity to fail in the area, with health staff working until dawn without lights in the district’s poorly equipped government hospital.

Before daybreak, “we were operating without electricity with the help of torches and mobile flashlights,” Zahoor Tarin, a senior official at Harnai hospital, told AFP.

“Most of the injured came with fractured limbs. Dozens of people were sent back after first aid,” he said.

The most serious cases were being sent by ambulance to Quetta.

The earthquake was felt in towns throughout Balochistan, which borders Afghanistan and Iran, including provincial capital Quetta, around 170 kilometres (105 miles) west of Harnai.

The US Geological Survey later revised upwards the magnitude of the shallow quake to 5.9.

Residents gather next to the debris of their houses that collapsed following an earthquake in the remote mountainous district of Harnai on October 7, 2021, as around 20 people were killed and more than 200 injured when a shallow earthquake hit southwestern Pakistan in the early hours of October 7.Banaras KHAN / AFP

 

Pakistan straddles the boundary where the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates meet, making the country susceptible to earthquakes.

In 2015, a 7.5-magnitude quake in Pakistan and Afghanistan killed almost 400 people across rugged terrain that impeded relief efforts.

The country was also hit by a 7.6-magnitude quake in 2005 that killed more than 73,000 people and left about 3.5 million homeless, mainly in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.

A 7.6-magnitude quake in 1935 killed around 30,000 people in Quetta, which at the time was part of British-ruled India.

AFP

Four Killed In Pakistan Suicide Blast Near Afghan Border – Police

Pakistan map

 

Four Pakistani paramilitary guards were killed Sunday when a suicide bomber on a motorbike blew himself up in the southwestern city of Quetta, police said.

The bomber targeted Frontier Constabulary guards in the Mian Ghundi neighbourhood of the city — around 140 kilometers (87 miles) from the frontier with Afghanistan — where Hazara Shiite merchants were trading vegetables.

Three died immediately in the blast, with another officer dying later of his wounds, said Azhar Akram, a deputy inspector general of police.

Akram told AFP that 17 guards and two civilians were wounded in the blast. Three are in a critical condition, he said.

A spokesman for the police’s Counter-Terrorism Department confirmed the attack.

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Quetta is home to approximately 500,000 Hazaras, who mostly live in an ethnic enclave on the edge of the city.

The community has long been targeted by the Islamic State and other militant Sunni groups, who see them as a heretical sect.

A series of bombings carried out by a Pakistani sectarian militant group in 2013 killed over 200 Hazaras in the city.

Frontier guards have also been targeted by Baloch insurgents, who have been waging a simmering insurgency for greater autonomy.

AFP

Factory Fire Kills 16 In Pakistan’s Karachi

At least 16 people were killed in a fire that erupted in a chemical factory in the Mehran Town Korangi area of Karachi on Friday.

 

 

At least 16 workers died and more were missing after a factory fire in Pakistan’s commercial capital Karachi on Friday, police said.

More than 25 labourers were inside the small factory in a residential area of the port city when the blaze broke out, causing it to fill with thick smoke.

“We have recovered 16 bodies so far,” senior police officer Shahjehan Khan told AFP.

“We are trying to recover more stranded people but I fear they might not make it out,” Khan said, adding the factory had no proper fire exits.

“The stairs leading to the roof were locked, otherwise the labourers could have survived by running to the rooftop,” Khan said.

Karachi city administrator Murtaza Wahab also said there was no safe exit for the workers.

Poor industrial laws and building codes in Pakistan mean factory blazes are frequent.

In 2012 at least 250 labourers for a garment factory died in Baldia Town in western Karachi when a fire engulfed the facility and there was no fire escape.