Cloudburst-induced flood destroys 30 houses in Neelum Valley, couple goes missing

Around 30 houses were destroyed and a couple went missing following a cloudburst triggered flash flood in the Salkhala area of Neelum Valley in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) on Monday night, officials said.

“I have just talked to DC Nelum [sic]. He has confirmed 2 persons missing other 2 have been hospitalised, ppl living nearby have been evacuated rescue work has been stopped till dawn,” AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider said in a tweet on Monday night.

District Disaster Management Officer Akhtar Ayub told Dawn.com on Tuesday morning that the district headquarter in Neelum, Athmuqam, and its nearby areas had been receiving heavy rain since 9pm on Monday.

“We heard the clamour from Salkhala from across the stream and when we reached the site along with volunteers, we saw that flooding had wreaked havoc,” he said.

The stream that winds its way through Salkhala merges into Neelum River like all other water channels of the valley. Pictures shared on social media showed the debris of the destroyed houses, while it appeared that some other structures had been entirely swept away by flooding in the stream.

According to Ayub, in addition to around 30 houses, the flood had swept away cattle, a wood factory and a motorcycle.

However, an eyewitness, Hayat Awan, estimated that around 20 houses were swept away, adding that the ground floors of approximately 15 others had been badly damaged and the residences were no longer livable. He said the flood had swept away approximately 25 cattle head and caused damage to infrastructure in the area.

Ayub likened the destruction in Salkhala to that caused by flooding in the Lesva water channel in Neelum Valley around two years ago. Around 20 lives were lost and numerous properties were damaged back then, he recalled.

However, he added, no casualties had been reported in Salkhala this time around as people preempted the flood and vacated their houses.

Sharing details about the missing couple, Akram Zia and Salma Bibi, the official said the search for them was under way.

He added that their daughter, Ayesha, and Zia’s sister-in-law, Khairun Nisa, were rescued last night in injured conditions and had been shifted to a local hospital.

Ayub said the affected families were shifted to safe spots in the area on Monday night.

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