G-B reconnected as Highway opens

GILGIT: The Karakoram Highway (KKH), Gilgit-Baltistan’s road link to the rest of Pakistan, was restored on Thursday as a passenger bus took off from Gilgit to Rawalpindi.

Landslides triggered by torrential rains had blocked the strategic KKH since July 26. At least four major bridges on the KKH had been washed away by floods and 947 other roads were been affected in the rains that lasted over 17 days.

Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Mehdi Shah and several members of his Cabinet went to Thalichi, about 70 kilometres from Gilgit, to see off passengers heading to Rawalpindi.

The bus, operated by a government transport company, had been stranded in Gilgit for over 20 days. However, the bus will have to go via the Babusar-Kaghan road as the Chilas-Thakote portion of the KKH is still blocked. The Chilas-Gilgit portion of the KKH was also opened for traffic on Thursday.

“It is really consoling that Gilgit-Baltistan’s land route has finally been restored,” Shah said, after returning to Gilgit. A convoy of at least 3,000 vehicles, which were stranded in Chilas for several days, has begun reaching Gilgit and other districts. These vehicles were loaded with basic food items and had been waiting for the KKH to reopen. Thousands of other people who were stranded in the region were allowed to travel on Thursday through public transport.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 19th, 2010.

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