At least 22 people have died after being stuck in their vehicles when temperatures fell to -8C (17.6F) during heavy snowfall in Pakistan. Eight of the 22 who died at mountain resort town of Murree were from the family of a police officer who also died, another Islamabad police officer said
He also called Rangers and FC. Thousands of vehicles were stranded in Murree.
ISLAMABAD: The Punjab government declared Murree a calamity-stricken region and sought the help of the Pakistani military after at least 21 tourists were killed in their vehicles.
All routes in Murree were blocked after thousands of vehicles entered the city, leaving tourists helpless on the roads.
In a video message, Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed said on Saturday that Murree had “seen a lot of tourists after 15-20 years,” and because of that, a crisis ensued.
Rasheed said the government was forced to close the Islamabad-Murree highway. “Islamabad and Rawalpindi commissioners, deputy commissioners and police are conducting rescue work.”
The interior minister said that five platoons of the Pakistan Army have been called in for the rescue efforts, while the Rangers and Frontier Corps will be deployed in an emergency.
“Up to 1,000 vehicles have been stuck since night … some have been evacuated; 20-22 deaths occurred in cars. Locals provided food and blankets to the stranded people.”
The interior minister said authorities would evacuate 1,000 vehicles tonight, while roads would remain closed to Murree until 9 p.m. tomorrow.
“We have also decided to ban tourists who plan to come to Murree by walking – this is not the time to come to Murree,” Rasheed said.
According to the local administration, rain and blizzards are forecast tonight in and around Murree, with thunderstorms at a speed of 50-90 km / h and heavy snowfall.
The administration warned citizens not to leave their homes in bad weather conditions or to turn to Murree, as severe weather conditions are likely to continue late into the night.
Prime Minister ‘Shoked’
Prime Minister Imran Khan, responding to the incident, said: “Shocked and upset by the tragic deaths of tourists on the road to Murree.”
He mentioned that “the unprecedented snowfall and the avalanche of people advancing without checking the weather conditions surprised the district administration without being prepared.”
The prime minister said that he ordered an investigation into the matter and that he was implementing “strict regulation” to ensure the prevention of such tragedies in the future.
Tourists congregating in Murree
For the past two days, there has been continuous snowfall in Murree, and with that, hundreds of thousands of tourists are heading towards the city.
Geo News, citing officials, reported that an estimated 125,000 vehicles have entered the city so far, as a result of which serious traffic jams were witnessed on the roads. In view of the emergency situation, the administration has decided to close all roads leading to Murree.
The Rawalpindi Deputy Commissioner has confirmed that the roads leading to the tourist site have been blocked at Bhara Kahu Tool Square to deal with the situation.
Thousands of tourists, including women and children, have been trapped on the roads in the area since last night. Traffic police officials, however, were making their efforts to restore the flow of traffic on the roads.
Tourists have demanded that the government help them evacuate them from the area.
On Twitter, the Rawalpindi Deputy Commissioner said: “Around 23,000 vehicles have been safely evacuated from Murree. About 1,000 are still stranded. “
He maintained that the district administration is working around the clock to evacuate the remaining vehicles safely.
The government calls for the plans to be postponed for a few days
Earlier, Sheikh Rasheed had appealed to tourists, especially families, to refrain from traveling to Murree and Galyat.
He had argued that tourists will not be allowed to go to the 17-mile Interchange. However, citizens with an extreme emergency will be granted permission to travel to Murree and Galya.
Similarly, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said that a large number of vehicles were heading towards Murree and other mountainous areas, making it impossible for the local administration to facilitate them.
He urged people to postpone his plan for a few days.
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