4 January 2010

Landslide at Attabad (Atabad) village, Hunza, Pakistan

Posted by Dave Petley

Updated with Google Earth image and further details
Updated 5th January at 08:27 UT with new fatality count.

The media in Pakistan is reporting that at least 10 people (NB see update below) have been killed in a landslide at Attabad village (sometimes written as Atabad) in northern Pakistan. This report from Dawn.com is a good example:

At least 10 people have been killed and several injured due to a landslide in Attabad village of Hunza district of Gilgit-Baltistan as rescuers battle with extreme weather. Under the direction of Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, teams of doctors and rescue workers have been dispatched to Hunza to conduct a massive rescue and relief operation there to save the lives of the people who are still stranded under the rubble…According to Home secretary Gilgit-Baltistan Muhammad Usman Younus, Attabad village slid into the river. Attabad village had already been declared dangerous some two years ago when it had started sliding down.”

Some reports suggest that up to 50 people may be missing.

Latest update: The Nation reports that 20 people have been killed, although only ten bodies have been recovered:

“At least 20 people were killed and several others injured when a massive landslide followed by boulders and rocks slid two villages including Atta Abad of Hunza district of Gilgit-Baltistan into river. At least 10 bodies were retrieved from the debris as rescuers battled with extreme weather to reach any survivors.”

However, the real picture at this site can be gained from this news report dated 14th December 2009:

Attaabad, a beautiful hamlet, is located at a distance of 760 Kilometers from the federal capital, and about thirty kilometers from Aliabad, the main town of Hunza valley. It is located at a distance of 55 kilometers from the Karakuram Highway, above Sarat village on a steep slope in Central Hunza. Continuous land movement for the past four years has made houses pitched on mountain slopes of Attaabad risky for people of live in. The government had asked the people to vacate Attabad and they lived for months in Tents and huts in a nearby location…The inhabitants of Attabad village claim that the first cracks appeared in the land when a high magnitude earth quack waves hit the village in 1994, causing a land mass to shift place, 1000 feet above the residential cluster. The cracks began to widen when the upper land mass stated to move, causing land sliding and uneven leveling of land. As a result, the human settlement was badly affected as houses of about twenty six developed cracks and agricultural land property of sixty six families was destroyed. The families were forced to leave the hamlet. The situation became more serious when the earth quake on October 8, 2005 shook the entire region and intensified the movement of rocks, destroyed houses…Reports like that of Geological Survey of Pakistan (GSP) have declare the area a potential threat, at the verge of complete destruction. These reports have recommended for public safety, animal and agricultural property…When closely observed, the eastern part of the village is gradually moving, causing enlargement of cracks and a main reason for slope failure. Dozen of residential houses and cattle shelters have been destroyed due to recent slope failure. The bed rock is completely fractured and jointed through tectonic process in the area. Heavy pieces of rocks have started to slide down…While, the hydrological factors have caused the movement and intensified slope failure as water during rain and snow melt enters the rocks. The movement in network of cracks in the area can be a future calamity and loss of any human life will be a great mistake on part of both conscious minds of the region and government simultaneously.

It is pertinent to mention that on advice of few narrow-sighted and politically immature elders, the population boycotted the election in a hope to get notice of the rest of masses of Hunza. Yet, the strategy seems irrational, as participation in democratic processes is the first step towards resolution. It is expected that the ruling party will do some thing irrespective of their attitude in terms of boycott only for the welfare of humanity.

It is right time for the two representatives of Hunza, Wazir Baig, speaker of GBLA, and Mutabiat Shah, technocrat, to take serious notice of the plight of people of Attabad and work towards seeking permanent solutions for the human suffering in Attabad.

So yet again we have multiple fatalities occurring on a slope with known stability issues. This is a tragic start to the New Year.

According to a GNS location search, this is Attabad:

If true (and this is unconfirmed) then the signs of serious instability are absolutely clear:

Note the large tension cracks, with displacement, running across the slope.

is reporting that a substantial barrier lake has developed:

The debris fell into the adjacent Hunza River and blocked the flow of water. The stoppage of the river created a huge lake and danger of flooding in the area. The local administration started the rescue work and asked the people on low lying areas to immediately shift to safer places. Efforts were on to restore the normal flow of the river.