Mirpur (AJK)   -   Around two dozen people were feared dead and several others reported missing on Monday after heavy rains and flashfloods in Neelum Valley area of Azad Kashmir.

A cloudburst led to rain and thunder and resulting flash floods caused wide-scale destruction in the valley’s Lesswa area, said Saeed-ur-Rehman, the Director Operations of the AJK disaster management authority.

Army troops were assisting civil administration in rescue and relief of the population affected by land slide near Laswa village and flashflood in Neelum Jhelum River at Nauseri, Danni.

At least 22 people were feared dead and seven injured after being swept away by the flashfloods, which also damaged up to 150 houses, 70 shops and three mosques.

The missing people, who were believed to be buried in the mud, included nine locals and 13 members of a Tableeghi (preaching) party, while the others were said to be locals.

Several people were still stranded in their houses and efforts were underway to evacuate them.

The director operations of the disaster management authority said vehicles of several tourists also went missing due to the flashfloods.

The telecommunication system faced severe damage and teams have been dispatched to carry out rescue activities in the area, he said.

Officials warned the death toll could increase as rescuers struggled to reach affected areas, and with the floods badly damaging communications.

Central Police Control room of Neelam Valley district told the Lessva village is about 30 kilometer from Athmuqaam, the District Headquarter of Neelam Valley. The devastating cloudburst came at about 7:30pm on Sunday night which later caused a colossal land slide affecting a large part of the thickly populated village the hilly terrain.

Rescue teams were immediately rushed from Athmuqaam and Capital Muzaffarabad to evacuate the affected people.

The rescuers also retrieved the bodies of the ill-fated victims and evacuated the trapped, Incharge of the police control room said. Seriously injured persons were taken to CMH Muzaffarabad and other nearby hospitals, he added.

With the help of Pakistan army, relief camps had been established. The army helicopters evacuated 52 stranded individuals, according to a  press statement by the ISPR. Search operation for drowned persons was in progress, it said.

President grieved over deaths, destruction by Neelum Valley flash floods

President of Pakistan Dr Arif Alvi and President of Azad Jammu and Kashmir Sardar Masood expressed grief over the loss of lives and properties.

A statement from AJK president’s office said Sardar Masood was in direct contact with the AJK Chief Secretary and the Inspector General of Police, who were overseeing the rescue and relief operations.

On ground rescue and relief operations were being headed by Neelum deputy commissioner in which teams from the State Disaster Management Authority and AJK-Red Crescent were taking part along with the local administration. The District Administration was also working closely with the teams of Pakistan Army.