21 people die trapped in vehicles after heavy snowfall in Pakistan’s Murree
Lahore: Pakistan’s popular hill station Murree was declared a calamity-hit area on Saturday after at least 21 people, including nine children, froze to death in their vehicles due to unprecedented snowfall and rush of tourists to the picturesque town in Punjab province.
All the routes in Murree in Rawalpindi district were blocked after thousands of vehicles entered the city, leaving the tourists helpless on the roads.
Around 1,000 cars were stuck on the hill station while the Punjab chief minister issued instructions for expediting rescue work and providing aid to the stranded tourists, the Dawn newspaper reported.
According to a list issued by Rescue 1122, at least 21 people died, including nine children, it said. Prime Minister Imran Khan said he was shocked and upset at the tragic deaths of tourists on the road to Murree.
“Unprecedented snowfall & rush of ppl proceeding without checking weather conditions caught district admin unprepared. Have ordered inquiry & putting in place strong regulation to ensure prevention of such tragedies,” Khan said in a tweet.
The military has been mobilised to clear roads and rescue people still trapped, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid said in a video message. He said Murree had “seen a huge number of tourists after 15-20 years”, and due to that, a crisis took place.
Rashid said the government was forced to close the road from Islamabad to Murree.
The commissioners of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, deputy commissioners, police, are carrying out rescue operations, he said.
“As many as 1,000 vehicles have been stuck since night some have been evacuated; 16-19 deaths took place in cars. The locals provided food and blankets to the stranded people,” Rashid said.
He said the authorities would evacuate 1,000 vehicles by Saturday evening, while the roads would remain closed to Murree till Sunday at 9 PM.
“We have also decided to ban tourists who are planning to visit Murree. This is not the time to come to Murree,” the minister was quoted as saying by the Geo News.
The Punjab government has declared Murree as a calamity-hit area after heavy snowfall wreaked havoc in the city. Taking notice of the chaos and emergency situation, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar has directed to open the government’s offices and rest houses for the stranded tourists.
The Pakistan Meteorological Department had predicted heavy snowfall in Murree and Galiyat from January 6 to 9.
Thousands of tourists, including women and children, have been trapped on the roads in the area since last night. Officials of the traffic police, however, were making their efforts to restore the flow of traffic on the roads.
Taking to Twitter, Rawalpindi deputy commissioner said,
“Around 23,000 vehicles have been evacuated safely from Murree. Around 1,000 are still stranded.”