Flooding fears as Pakistan tries to ease dam pressure

Fears are growing a lake created by a landslide will burst and cause a massive flood that could affect more than 50,000 people in northern Pakistan.

Flooding fears as Pakistan tries to ease dam pressure

Fears are growing a lake created by a landslide will burst and cause a massive flood that could affect more than 50,000 people in northern Pakistan and disrupt a key trade link with China, residents said on Wednesday.

A landslide in early January blocked the Hunza River and created a lake 16 km (10 miles) long. Twenty people were killed and another 25,000 stranded upstream from the town of Gilgit.

Officials hope to avert a potential disaster by digging a spillway in a little over two weeks to ease pressure on the dam. Reseidents however fear a bigger breach because they say the outflow, once started, will be difficult to control.

"We don't believe what the officials say as there is no way the spillway can sustain the pressure of the massive lake," Mohammad Hussain, a former head of the Gilgit district council, told Reuters. "Only Allah can prevent this."

Hussain said such a flood would sweep away 22 villages and uproot up to 25,000 people nearby. A similar number would be affected further downstream, he said.

Asif Bilal Lodhi, home secretary of Gilgit-Baltistan region said local and international experts believed there was no such danger. He said officials were prepared even if it did happen.

Possible floods would also damage the Karakoram Highway, a road linking Pakistan and China through the Himalayas and a trade route for a significant portion of Pakistan's consumer goods.

A 2km stretch of the highway has already been blocked, hampering trade between Pakistan and China.

Javed Hussain, president of the regional trade body, said losses from the disaster already amounted to 1.5 billion rupees ($17.8 million), about a quarter of annual two-way trade along the highway.

Trading season runs from May 1 to Dec. 31, with the Pakistan-China border closed for four months during winter.

Reuters

Last Mod: 12 Mayıs 2010, 16:42
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