25 March 2010

Attabad – the mainstream media has finally woken up to this story

Posted by Dave Petley

Within the mainstream media the Attabad landslide story has been on slow burn for a while now, with a bit of interest last week. However, Reuters have run a story on this today that should now see it gaining a higher profile over the next few days:

Reuters Story (Key parts only):
Authorities in northern Pakistan are struggling to prevent the bursting of a natural dam formed by a landslide that could affect more than 50,000 people and sever an important trade link with China. The landslide, in early January, killed 14 people and blocked the Hunza River, creating a huge lake that inundated several villages and left about 25,000 people stranded. Residents says the government has not done enough to get supplies and contain the threat of a breach.


Officials are scrambling to ease pressure on the dam by creating a spillway, and say they do not see any immediate threat of a breach. But residents say the situation is extremely precarious. The water level is rising every day, adding to the pressure which could lead to a breach in the lake,” Hussain said.


A senior official at the NDMA, that was formed after a October 2005 earthquake that killed 73,000 people in the country’s northwest, said all precautionary measures had been taken to prevent any human loss. “Possibilities of an outburst exist, but the chances are very remote and we are prepared for the worst,” said Col. Amir Siddique. Work is under way to remove debris and create a spillway, due for completion by mid-April, that would provide a channel into the riverbed for a controlled outflow of lake water. But an official involved in the rehabilitation efforts, who declined to be identified, said there would still be a danger of flash floods, as the chance of a breach exists until the pressure on the blockage is reduced.”In the worst case scenario, if the lake bursts the water will damage or destroy all bridges in the area and will damage the KKH,” the official said. He said the wave, which could be as high as 50 metres at its start, would affect nearly 11,000 people in districts of Gilgit-Biltastan and another 40,000 to 50,000 people downstream.

Not a bad write up, but my own view is that the quote that “Possibilities of an outburst exist, but the chances are very remote and we are prepared for the worst” is not quite my reading of the current situation, certainly in terms of the likelihood of an outburst event. I am not sure what the current state of preparation is, but if the quote is correct then the governemnt has done a great deal of work since I left three weeks ago.