[News]Hunza Disaster Affected People blast Pakistan gov’t’s response to flood
May 22, 2010 Leave a comment
(Reuters) – Hundreds of villagers shouting anti-government slogans in northern Pakistan on Friday denounced the authorities’ failure to offer compensation to residents displaced by a lake created after a landslide.
Officials evacuated thousands of people this week amid fears the lake, formed after a landslide blocked the Hunza River on January 4, could burst and affect about 50,000 people downstream and sever a road serving as an important trade link with China.
Twenty people were killed in the landslide and subsequent flooding of several villages upstream displaced about 6,000 people and left another 25,000 stranded, according to officials and residents.
Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani visited Altit village on Friday, where about 1,300 displaced people had been housed, some 15 km (9 miles) east of the new lake.
But soon after Gilani left, some in the 400-strong crowd began shouting anti-government slogans, demanding immediate relief, witnesses said.
“The protesters were annoyed that the prime minister did not announce any relief package for them,” Raza Hamadani told Reuters by telephone.
The protesters dispersed after officials, who accompanied Gilani, assured them the government would announce compensation and help them resettle.
Pakistan’s government is already under fire for its handling of crippling power cuts, its struggle to contain a Taliban insurgency and efforts to strengthen a sluggish economy. It can ill-afford a catastrophe like widespread flooding.
Officials hope for a gradual erosion of the blockage once the water starts flowing sometime next week through a spillway created to drain the lake. But they have not ruled out a sudden breach that could lead to massive flooding.
A sudden flood would inundate 39 villages in the regions of Hunza and Gilgit, affecting about 13,000 people. Residents put the number at about 25,000 with a similar number affected further downstream.
The lake has also submerged a 22-km (15-mile) stretch of the Karakoram Highway, hampering trade between Pakistan and China.