At least 24 people died and several others were missing on Monday after heavy rains and flash floods hit Neelum Valley in Azad Kashmir.AJK Minister for Disaster Management Ahmed Raza Qadri said the flooding late on Sunday also caused much destruction and damage in the village of Lesswa in Neelum Valley. He said they have not been able to find the 24 who were swept away by the waters, including two soldiers and 11 members of the Tableeghi Jamaat. Saeedur Rehman, a disaster management official, said efforts are being made to reach people stranded in their homes in the area cut off by the flooding, which damaged up to 150 houses and a mosque. He said shops are also damaged in the area and vehicles of several tourists went missing due to the flashfloods. The telecommunication system also faced severe damage, he said, adding that teams have been dispatched to carry out rescue activities in the area. Officials warned the death toll can increase as rescuers struggle to reach affected areas.According to Muzaffarabad Commissioner Chaudhry Imtiaz, the army, district administration, police, residents of the area and Disaster Management Authority are all participating in the rescue efforts. The deputy commissioner is overseeing the operation. Temporary camps are being set up to house the displaced people and food and non-food items are being dispatched. No bodies have been found yet but officials say the chances of anyone being found alive are slim to none. Heavy machinery is needed to clear the road but the remote location of the site is making it difficult.Commissioner Imtiaz said there was no time for an alert to be issued. There had been forecasts of rain in the area and Kashmir but the onset of the flood was too sudden to do anything. He said it was due to a cloud burst. Officials also confirmed the death of five people, including a little girl, after a touring jeep fell into River Neelum. One person survived the accident and was admitted to a hospital in critical condition.“We are frantically searching for more missing people. This is a popular tourist spot so there is a strong probability of the death toll increasing. An emergency control room has been established in Muzaffarabad (058-21921643) to supervise and coordinate the rescue operation,” Saaedur Rehman said. Pakistan Army is assisting Azad Kashmir’s civil administration in rescue and relief operation in Neelum Valley. According to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), relief camps have been established with food, ration and medical care being provided to the affected people. The military’s media wing said 52 stranded individuals were moved to camps/safer places via a helicopter. A search operation for the drowned persons is underway, it added.Cloudburst is a rare phenomenon in which a large amount of water pours down on the ground due to the burst of clouds. Normally rainfall over 100 mm per hour is considered as a cloudburst. Prime Minister Imran Khan has directed the authorities concerned to immediately launch relief activities in the affected areas of Neelum Valley. He also expressed his deep grief and sorrow over the loss of precious lives in the torrential rains that lashed the valley, triggering flash flood in the area. He expressed his sympathies with those people whose residences were damaged in the calamity.President Dr Arif Alvi also expressed grief over the loss of lives and properties caused by the heavy rains and flash floods hitting the Neelum Valley of Azad Kashmir. he prayed for peace of the departed souls and courage to the bereaved families to bear the loss with fortitude. He also sympathised with the families who had lost their homes and prayed for early recovery of those injured in the incidentAzad Jammu and Kashmir President Sardar Masood Khan has expressed deep concern and grief over the loss of precious lives and property due to a flashflood caused by a cloudburst in Leswa area of Neelum District. He urged the civilian administration to ensure the best medical assistance to the injured besides immediate evacuation and rescue operations.