A 12-year-old girl was found alive by rescue officials on Wednesday after being buried under snow for 18 hours after an avalanche in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) engulfed her family house. A combination of heavy snowfall and bitterly cold temperatures since Sunday left at least 76 people dead in the region.
Samina Bibi recalled screaming and shouting for help as she lay trapped in a room under the snow, according to media reports. "I thought I would die there," she said from a hospital bed in Muzaffarabad, where dozens of injured, including her, were receiving treatment after being airlifted out of the avalanche area. Samina said she could not sleep while she waited to be rescued. Her leg was fractured and blood was oozing from her mouth.
Meanwhile, for Samina's mother, Shahnaz Bibi, who lost a son and another daughter, the rescue was nothing short of a miracle. After being pulled out of the snow earlier, Shahnaz said she and her brother, Irshad Ahmad, had given up hope of finding Samina alive.
"We didn't hear a rumble," Shahnaz said, recalling the moments before the avalanche buried the three-floor house where she and her family were sheltered with others from the village. At least 18 of them died. Samina and her family were huddled around a fire when the avalanche hit. "It happened in the blink of an eye," Shahnaz said.
The worst affected area was Neelum Valley, where the 21 bodies were retrieved, said Ahmad Raza Qadri, a minister for disaster management. Pakistan's National Disaster Management Authority said the total number of deaths in snow-hit areas across the country over the past couple of days was now 100.
More heavy snowfall is expected in the region from Friday. In neighbouring Afghanistan, the situation seemed to be returning to normal on Wednesday, following days-long heavy snowfall, rains and flash floods that killed 39 people and has damaged about 300 homes since Sunday.
(With ANI inputs; Image: ANI)