Historic Pakistan bridge collapses amid heatwave

A crucial bridge in Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan region was swept away by water from a glacial lake amid a persistent heatwave in south Asia.

The Hassanabad bridge on the Karakoram Highway was destroyed on Saturday by gushing floodwaters, stranding thousands of locals and tourists. The Shishper glacier, near Mount Shishpar in the northern part of the country, reportedly started melting due to the heat that led to the floods over the weekend.

Dramatic videos on social media showed torrents of water slamming against the concrete of the bridge, leading to the collapse.

Following the incident, the local police diverted the traffic to an alternate route and barred heavy transport vehicles. There has been no loss of life, officials said.

The glacial floods reportedly swept away two hydropower projects, submerged houses, agricultural land and water supply channels.

Local authorities said a temporary bridge would be installed to restore traffic movements disconnected due to the flood.

“A compact bridge would be temporarily installed to restore traffic” while the construction of a permanent bridge would take about seven to eight months, National Highway Authority chair Muhammad Khurram Agha said, according to Gulf News.

As more than a billion people in the subcontinent continue to reel under a tremendous heatwave, Pakistan recorded its hottest April in decades with Jacobabad touching 49C.

Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s new climate change minister, warned that several areas are vulnerable to the rising heat.

“Many such areas are vulnerable up in the north, especially Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Pakistan has the highest number of glaciers outside the polar region and many are losing mass due to high global temperatures,” she wrote on Twitter.

“We need global leaders to reduce emissions, walk the talk,” she added.

In April, Ms Rehman had cautioned disaster management authorities of a possible glacial lake outburst and flash floods due to rising temperatures.

More than 7.1 million people in the northern areas, where 20 per cent of the population live below the poverty line, are vulnerable to climate change, reported Pakistani daily Dawn.

“The situation arising out of lake eruption on Shishper glacier needs to be dealt with on an urgent basis. The government must ensure that local communities are not harmed in any way and land routes remain open,” foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said.