In the midst of a tourist influx, at least 19 people died after being stranded in cars in the snow in Murree. The Punjab government declared Murree a calamity-hit region and sought help from the Pakistan Army.
For the last two days, continuous snowfall has been taking place in Murree. Hundreds of thousands of tourists are heading towards the town.
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. Entry of cars into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Gailyat has now been banned, according to the province’s chief minister.
Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, in a video message, said tourists had flocked to the hill station in such large numbers “for the first time in 15 to 20 years which created a big crisis”.
He said Rawalpindi and Islamabad administrations, along with police, had been working to rescue those stranded. Meanwhile, five platoons of the Pakistan Army, as well as Rangers and Frontier Corps, were called on an emergency basis.
The minister said that around 1,000 cars were stuck on the hill station. He confirmed that “16 to 19 deaths have occurred in their cars.”
Ahmed said that residents of Murree provided food and blankets to stranded tourists. In addition, the administration had closed all routes to the hill station and was now allowing only vehicles planning to take food and blankets.
“God willing, we will rescue 1,000 cars by evening today. We have decided to stop people [traveling] on foot as well. It is no time for [pedestrian] tourists to visit.”
Those who died reportedly ranged in age from 21 to 49.
Murree declared calamity hit
Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar declared Murree calamity hit and imposed a state of emergency in hospitals, police stations, administration offices, and Rescue 1122 services.
In a statement issued by his office, the chief minister said that rescuing stranded tourists was the “foremost priority”. He added that all rest houses and state buildings had been opened to them. Also, food and essential items are being provided.
More than 23,000 cars were evacuated from the area the night before. The rescue operation was going on, he shared. Buzdar appealed to people to strictly follow instructions given by the police and district administration and cooperate with them.
Families who went there with nothing but fun in mind have all died in their cars. It is heartbreaking to see such a thing, and also a stark reminder that if the government can encourage tourism, it should also ensure people’s safety during extreme weather.
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