Indians gather at border with Pakistan to welcome downed pilot
Robie de Guzman • March 1, 2019 • 5679
(REUTERS) — Indians eagerly waited for the return of a captured pilot by Islamabad on Friday (March 1), with some who have been staking out the Wagah border with Pakistan vowing to stay there until the arrival of their “hero”.
The pilot, identified as Wing Commander Abhinandan, became the human face of the flare-up over the contested region of Kashmir following the release of videos showing him being captured and later held in custody.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said the pilot would be released on Friday, even as his military reported that four Pakistani civilians had been killed by India firing across the disputed border in Kashmir.
The United States, China, European Union and other powers have urged restraint from the two nations, as tensions escalated following a suicide car bombing that killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Feb. 14.
The Muslim-majority Himalayan region has been at the heart of more than 70 years of animosity, since the partition of the British colony of India into the separate countries of Muslim Pakistan and majority Hindu India.
Islamabad – A 12-year-old girl has survived 18 hours buried under rubble and snow in Pakistan after a neighbor’s house where she took refuge with her family was buried by an avalanche.
Two of the girl’s brothers died in the incident.
So far 104 people have been killed by the adverse weather conditions affecting the Asian country.
The girl’s mother, Shehnaz Bibi, told Efe on Thursday that she took refuge with her husband and four children in a neighbor’s house along with four other families on Monday afternoon as snowfall blanketed the town of Bakwali in Neelum Valley.
Bibi said there was no noise before the avalanche struck the house, burying all those inside.
The woman was rescued three hours later and told her four children were presumed dead.
But an hour later Aqib, 3, was rescued alive.
Her daughter Samina, 12, was discovered alive on Tuesday morning, 18 hours after the house was buried by the snow. She had a broken leg.
“It is a miracle that she is alive,” said Bibi. “She was awake the whole night and didn’t eat anything.
“She had been calling for help the whole night.”
The girl survived in a hole amid the wooden remains of the collapsed five-story house.
After being rescued, Samina was transferred to a hospital in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani Kashmir.
“She has a fracture in her femur but she is stable now,” the deputy medical superintendent of the Combined Military Hospital, Nauman Manzoor, said.
The bodies of Bibi’s other two children were found later.
Her house, which the family fled believing it would collapse, survived the avalanche and is still standing.
“We regret why we chose to go to another house,” she said. “I’ve lost my two children just because of a wrong decision.”
Eighteen people were killed and 12 survived the avalanche.
In Kashmir, 77 people have been reported dead while 56 have been injured in a series of avalanches that buried valleys and villages on Monday, according to Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority.
Elsewhere, 20 people died in Balochistan province on Monday, while 23 others were injured in the snowstorms, which brought down houses and blocked roads.
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the death toll stood at seven, while five have died in Gilgit Baltistan.
The number of fatalities resulting from the bad weather reached 104, while 96 have been injured and 236 houses have been destroyed in one of Pakistan’s harshest winters in recent memory.
Rescue operations were ongoing in the affected areas, with food and tents being distributed by army helicopters and soldiers working to reopen roads blocked by snow and debris.
Pakistan witnesses significant human loss and material damage every year during the monsoon season, but not usually during the winter months. EFE-EPA
Islamabad – At least 50 people were killed and 20 others remain missing after a series of avalanches hit several villages in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, officials said Tuesday.
In other parts of the country, 18 more have been killed due to heavy snowfall this winter season.
According to Saeed-Ur-Rehman Qureshi, the director of operations at the State Disaster Management Authority in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, a series of avalanches hit various villages in the Neelum Valley on Monday afternoon after several days of snowfall.
“So far, 50 people have been killed,” he told EFE, adding that the authorities feared that 20 others were missing amid the snow.
Local authorities have launched a rescue operation involving the country’s military to search for the missing people, Qureshi said.
In recent days, at least three more people have died in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir because of heavy rains and snowfall.
In the southwestern province of Balochistan, at least 15 people have been killed and 11 others injured in the last three days by heavy rains and snowfall that has shattered roofs, knocked down walls and cut off roads, Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority said in a statement.
On Monday, the provincial government declared state of emergency to deal with the situation.
The country’s meteorological department forecast continuous rain and snowfall over the next few days.
Every year, rainfall leads to significant human and property damage in South Asian countries, especially during the monsoon period between June and September.
One of the worst natural disasters in Pakistan’s history was the flooding in 2010 following an extraordinarily intense monsoon, which, combined with a massive summer thaw, left some 2,000 people dead and more than 20 million affected. EFE-EPA
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