Page last updated at 07:19 GMT, Monday, 17 May 2010 08:19 UK

Pakistan Hunza lake 'to overflow within days'

Natural dam caused by a landslide in Hunza district of northern Pakistan
Thousands of people have been forced from their villages after a lake formed

A lake in northern Pakistan formed when landslides blocked a river in January could begin to overflow within the next 10 days, officials have told the BBC.

If that happens water may begin to flow through drainage channels dug to cope with any overflow, deputy district commissioner Zafar Waqar said.

The government has nonetheless begun evacuating 18 villages, he said.

Officials say that Attabad lake could break its banks when the rains begin, submerging dozens of villages nearby.

Officials estimate that as many as 30,000 people could be affected.

Thousands have already fled their villages to seek shelter in other areas. Many are being offered food and supplies at relief camps set up by charities and political parties in the region.

Mr Waqar told BBC Urdu's Raza Hamdani in Hunza that the government was also stocking up on food, to be delivered to affected people in the event of flooding.

Some were displaced by the original landslide in January. But the water level has since continued to rise, and more homes have gradually been engulfed.

Flood sirens


Meanwhile an international charity group, Focus, which is monitoring the Attabad lake, says it has installed sirens at 12 points, which will go off when water begins to spill over the embankment.

The group was also helping to evacuate people from several villages in the area, according to Focus worker Lal Khan.

Dozens of families are camping at a girls' college in the nearby town of Karimabad.

The landslide, which happened during snowstorms in January, is near the remote village of Attabad, about 30km (18 miles) north-east of the town of Aliabad.

Debris from the slide blocked the river Hunza, stopping water flowing downstream and creating what is now referred to as Attabad lake.

Over the last four months water has been accumulating in the lake, which is now about 16km (9.9 miles) long. The water is more than 100m (330ft) deep in places.

Officials say that parts of the famous Karakoram highway to China could be washed away if the lake's banks burst.

A section of the highway is already blocked as a result of the landslides and lake.

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