QUETTA: A Pakistan army aviation helicopter reviewing flood relief operations in Lasbela, Balochistan, is missing with the top military commander of the southwestern province on board, the army's media wing said on Monday.
The XII Corps, also known as Quetta Corps, is a corps of the Pakistan Army currently stationed in Quetta, Balochistan. It is commanded by Lieutenant General Sarfraz Ali, who was on the missing helicopter.
"A Pakistan army aviation helicopter which was on flood relief operations in Lasbela, Balochistan lost contact with air traffic control," the army's media wing, ISPR, said. "6 individuals were on board including Commander 12 Corps who was supervising flood relief operations in Balochistan. Search operation is underway."
Pakistan has witnessed torrential rains since the monsoon season began in June, causing flash floods in several parts of the country.
Latest statistics by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) said 434 people have been killed in rains across Pakistan since the onset of the monsoon season, with Balochistan worst-hit with 149 deaths since mid-June.
Balochistan Chief Minister Mir Abdul Qudous Bizenjo expressed concern on the disappearance of the army helicopter, a statement from the CM’s office said.
“May Allah Almighty protect all the people and crew in the helicopter,” Bizenjo said. “The chief minister instructed the district administration of Lasbela and the police to use all means and resources to search for the helicopter. Provide full support to administration and police rescue teams.”
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif called the disappearance of the army helicopter "alarming."
"The entire nation prays to Allah Almighty for the safety, security and return of these sons of the country who came out to help the flood victims," Sharif tweeted.
Sharif also on Monday visited flood relief camps in Balochistan’s Qila Saifullah district. He was accompanied by Chief Minister Bizenjo, and said he had witnessed several administrative weaknesses in the relief camps, including the absence of proper record maintained by doctors and paramedics responsible for treating flood victims.
“There are camps in which people have come from adjoining areas with their families, leaving behind their houses which have been destroyed in rains,” the prime minister said. “I have met them, including children and elderly people. However, I could not get any confirmation that they were given food. In fact, the inhabitants of the relief camps clearly told us they had not been fed.”
Sharif directed the chief minister to take strict action against all "negligent" officials.