Prepared and compiled by MALIK MERCHANT
from AKDN, Reuters, BBC and the website of the President of Tajikistan
Featured image at top of post: A view shows the area affected by an avalanche in Gorno-Badakhshan region, Tajikistan, February 15, 2023. Photograph: Committee of Emergency Situations and Civil Defense of Tajikistan/Handout via REUTERS.
The Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH), an agency within the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), reports that more than 50 avalanches have hit the Badakhshan regions of Tajikistan and Afghanistan in recent days causing multiple casualties and damage to around 20 buildings and houses in the provincial capital Khorog (or Khorugh — town is circled in map below.)
According to the latest report by Reuters, the death toll stands at 20. Khorog is home to some 30,000 people. Its population is predominantly Ismaili Muslims and the town hosts the Tajikistan campus of the University of Central Asia. The mayor of provincial capital Khorog, Rizo Nazarzoda, urged its residents to stay at home as heavy snow and rain fell. Reuters states that videos from the area showed one-storey buildings covered up to their roofs with snow and ice blocks, with rescue teams digging through the snow in search of bodies.
The following is a summary of the avalanche as reported in BBC news on February 17, 2023:
- Khorog worst hit with 13 people killed;
- 2 female students missing in the Ishkoshim area [or Eshkashem, town is circled in map above];
- Child pulled from a collapsed house and crowds nearby are seen digging through the deep snow in the hope of finding more survivors.
In response to the avalanches, the President of the Republic of Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmon, called the chairman of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province, Alisher Khudoberdi Mirzonabot, and gave specific instructions for the prompt elimination of the consequences of the natural disaster and the provision of material assistance to affected families. In its brief, the President’s office states that more than a metre of snow fell in the region in the recent 3 days, which caused an avalanche to descend in Khorog.
The President has also received numerous messages of condolences including the following from his counterpart in the neghbouring Kyrgyz Republic, President Sadyr Japarov:
“It is with deep sorrow that I received the news of the death of people as a result of an avalanche in the city of Khorog, Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province of the Republic of Tajikistan, which occurred on February 15, 2023. On behalf of the entire people of Kyrgyzstan and on my own behalf, I express my condolences to the families and relatives of the victims and share their grief. I ask the Almighty for a speedy recovery of the injured.”
AKAH has mobilised quickly to respond to the urgent request from the Government of Tajikistan, deploying trained teams to conduct search and rescue operations. With heavy snowfall continuing, AKAH is helping relocate people from at risk areas and providing temporary shelter for those displaced. AKDN is also providing fuel to district authorities to support local ambulance services and is clearing roads blocked by the avalanches.
AKDN’s Pamir Energy is working to repair damage to power lines and resume energy services in affected towns as soon as possible.
Date posted: February 16, 2023.
Last updated: February 17, 2023 (added message of condolence from the Kyrgyz Republic, BBC story and map of region.)
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