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Saturday, 11 September 2010

Severe flooding in Baltistan during August 2010

Photo:landslides at Talis village

Photo: Talis village

On August 7th, I was at Islamabad airport with The Mountain Company’s K2 & Gondogoro La group waiting for our flight to Skardu. By midday we were informed this flight was cancelled due to bad weather in Skardu, we were of course disappointed by this delay however little did we know at the time the amount of devastation this weather had caused in the Baltistan region of Pakistan.

Baltistan has suffered from floods and landslides in the past however according to Felix Baltistan Foundation this is the first time has turned into a severe catastrophic situation. Monsoon rains do not usually affect this area in northern Pakistan, this is because of the rain shadow effect of the Himalaya range making a natural barrier to the rain clouds coming from the south and east. However on morning of August 7th heavy monsoon arrived to Baltistan resulting in widespread damage caused by landslides and flooding. In the villages of Talis and Qumran sadly fifty one people were killed and throughout the region many animals were killed, trees fallen and crops lost.

The Felix Baltistan Foundation is a non govermental organisation ("NGO") set up by a group of Basque mountaineers in memory of Felix Iñurrategi who died in 2000 while climbing on Gasherbrum II. The Foundation's aim is to help villages in the Hushe valley by improving their living conditions with projects directed towards the basic aspects of life such as education, agriculture and infrastructure.

Shortly after the floods on August 7th several members of Felix Baltistan Foundation provided emergency relief to people of Talis village. They gave out hot meals to families that had been left homeless and in coordination with local authorities and the Red Cross tents were distributed to affected families.

Going forward the Foundation’s objective is to continue their support by helping the villagers face the upcoming winter. The three basic areas in which they will be working on are: food support for next six months; recovery of agricultural lands; and reconstruction of their houses to help protect people against the elements (temperatures can drop to -20 Celsius during the winter).

To find out more about the Felix Baltistan Foundation take a look at their website. Please get in contact with the Foundation if you would like to contribute to their good work in the region.

Roland Hunter

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