Fact-check: Bad weather, not Imran Khan, prevented helicopter rescue of men stranded in Kohistan
Updated Thursday Sep 01 2022
A video on Twitter claims that five men, stuck amid gushing water in northern Pakistan, could not be saved as the official helicopter was engaged by former prime minister Imran Khan.
The short clip, which shows the five men stranded on a rock in Kohistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, was posted on social media on August 26. Since then it has been viewed over 200,000 times on Twitter alone.
Social media users allege that the men were left abandoned for four hours, and requests sent to the chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for his helicopter were ignored, since at that time it was being used by Imran Khan.
Four out of the five men later died.
Geo Fact-Check spoke to officials who were involved in the rescue operation to determine the veracity of the claim.
Kayal Saqib, the assistant commissioner Kohistan, told Geo Fact-Check that the men were stuck for two and half hours and not four hours.
He explained that his office first received information of the incident at 9:45am on August 25. A Rescue 1122 was mobilised within 15 minutes.
Since all seven bridges leading up to the location had been damaged, the team faced difficulty in reaching the site, he added. “It was not humanly possible to move ahead, still we tried and while we were on our way, at 11:30am, we received information that four of the five men had been swept away,” the official said.
In the midst of this, Saqib said he personally sent a request for a helicopter to rescue the men at 11am in the official Whatsapp group, after the locals informed him that there was no other way to reach the men.
The request was turned down, as there was constant downpour at the time, which would have made it difficult for the helicopter to conduct a rescue operation.
Shakeel Ahmed, the deputy commissioner in Lower Kohistan, also told Geo Fact-Check that the weather did not permit a helicopter evacuation. He further shared images of an overcast sky on the morning of August 25.
Geo Fact-Check then reached out to local residents to confirm official claims of road damage and bad weather impeding the rescue.
Shah Mir Khan, a government teacher in Kohistan, confirmed that the weather was “quite bad” on the day, due to heavy rainfall.
“There was also no way for the Rescue 1122 team to reach the site as all the roads were damaged,” Khan said.
— With additional reporting by Arfa Feroze Zake
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