CHITRAL – GLOF is not an acronym for a militia or paramilitary group. This story is not about conflict. It is about a natural disaster.
The lead image of the city of Chitral, the capital of Pakistan’s Chitral District, is spectacular. It is nestled in a valley in the Hindu Kush. The district is, in fact, home to more than 40 mountains over 20,000 feet high, including the Tirich Mir, the tallest peak in the range at 25,289 feet.
All of which might lead one to say, based solely on the district’s location, “It’s a lovely place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.”
While those imperial peaks surround the district with unparalleled majesty, they also pose a potential danger. For instance, vehicular travel into and out of the district is limited to major roads, both of which are closed during the winter months. Travel during the winter is limited to traversing several high mountain passes on foot.
On Sunday, July 7, the residents of five Chitral villages literally ran for their lives to escape one of the gravest dangers the valley faces – a Glacial Lake Outburst Flood or GLOF.
Melting glaciers (there are 50 of them in the area) and nine glacial lakes are the chief sources of water for the people in the villages below. However, when the natural dams fail, the water descends rapidly in uncontainable, destructive torrents of terror.
Reuters reported that Sunday’s GLOF swept away roads and bridges, and damaged homes, irrigation channels and crops.
One resident reported,
“Our standing crops (and) apple and apricot orchards have been completely destroyed. There has been a huge loss of livestock, the stored grain has been swept away (and) our irrigation channels and small village-level micro hydropower plants have also been ruined.”
Another villager declared,
“I don’t even have a matchstick to light a candle with. Everything I owned has been taken away by the deluge.”
Nearly 4,000 people were able to escape death or injury from the rapid onslaught of the flooding, mainly because the residents have developed a crude, but effective, warning system. In this case, the “9-1-1” originated with a shepherd in the mountains.
The message arrived in time for villagers to escape with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Some were able to reach safety on high ground. Others have been stranded and isolated due to washed-out roads and bridges.
Rescuers have carried bamboo ladders to reach the flooded villages, some of which took more than seven hours to access due to the combination of the water and the rough terrain.
Pray that the victims of these flooded villages will soon have needed food, shelter, and medical supplies. Pray for aid to arrive to help them restore their homes, farms, businesses, and infrastructure. It will be a long road to recovery.
To read more news on Pakistan on Missions Box, go here.
- Reuters, As glacial lake bursts, preparation saves live in Pakistan
- Pakistan Today, Glacial lake outburst in Chitral damages house, shops
- Wikipedia, Chitral District
- Mustafa kamal123 [CC BY-SA 4.0]