By Abu Arqam Naqash
MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan (Reuters) – A 12-year-old girl was found alive on Tuesday after being buried for 18 hours when an avalanche in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir engulfed the family house, her mother said on Wednesday.
Samina Bibi recalled screaming and shouting for help as she lay trapped in a room under the snow.
The death toll from Monday’s avalanches in Pakistan’s Neelum Valley, in the Himalayan region disputed by Pakistan and India, rose to 74, according to Pakistani officials, as rescuers continued to recover bodies.
Samina was one of the lucky ones. “I thought I would die there,” she told Reuters from a hospital bed in Muzaffarabad, where she and dozens of other injured people were receiving treatment after being airlifted out of the avalanche area.
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.
Samina said she could not sleep while she waited to be rescued. Her leg was fractured and blood was oozing from her mouth.
For the family, the disaster happened very fast. “We didn’t hear a rumble,” Shahnaz said, recalling the moments before the avalanche buried the three-storey house where she and her family were sheltering with others from the village. At least 18 of them died.
Samina and her family were huddled round a fire when the avalanche hit. “It happened in the blink of an eye,” said Shahnaz.
Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority said the total number of deaths in snow-hit areas in Pakistan over the last couple of days had jumped to 100. More heavy snowfall is expected in the region from Friday.
Another 10 people were killed in the Indian part of the Kashmir valley.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since their independence in 1947. In 2012, an avalanche engulfed a Pakistani army headquarters near the Indian border, killing at least 124 soldiers and 11 civilians.
(The story corrects day that girl was found alive)
(Writing by Asif Shahzad and Gibran Peshimam; Editing by Giles Elgood)