Pakistan’s Murree snowstorm toll stands at 23


Death toll from unprecedented snowfall and influx of tourists to Pakistan’s popular Murree hill station rose to 23 after underage girl with severe cold and pneumonia died because she could not be transported to hospital in time.

Thousands of people have visited Murree after the picturesque town of Rawalpindi in Punjab province received record snowfall, leaving the local administration powerless and freezing to death more than 20 people in their stranded vehicles.

The death of a four-year-old girl brings the death toll to 23. The minor girl died in Jhika Gali. She was suffering from a severe cold and pneumonia, relief sources said, adding that she lost her life because she could not be rushed to hospital in time.

Rescue officials told Geo News at least 23 people have died so far as vehicles remain stuck in several feet of snow. The results were then confirmed by the Minister of the Interior, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed, in a statement on Saturday evening.

The minister said the situation can only be described as a “natural calamity” and the region has experienced “extreme snowfall”.

Cars were prevented from getting to Murree, people started walking there and they too were arrested, he said. The minister said the deaths were due to ‘suffocation’.

The prime minister’s assistant for political communication, Shahbaz Gill, said people left their cars on the roads to seek refuge in hotels when it started to snow heavily, hampering traffic.

“The administration remains active and is doing everything possible to ensure that all roads are clear for traffic,” he said.

Federal Information and Broadcasting Minister Fawad Chaudhry said unprecedented snowfall coupled with a record influx of tourists made it virtually impossible for the local administration to deal with the situation.

He said the process of evacuating people from the affected areas was underway and the entire nation was mourning the loss of precious human lives.

It was obvious that such a large influx of people could not be handled easily, he said.

Punjabi police said on Sunday that more than 500 families in the disaster-stricken town of Murree had been rescued and brought to safety in the past 24 hours.

“Heavy snowfall on the main highways in Murree caused the fall of 20 to 25 large trees which had blocked the roads. All the tourists were rescued before dark and taken to safe places, ”the Punjab police spokesman said.

Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar will visit the snow-capped areas of Murree on Sunday after the region was declared “devastated by the disaster,” the Express Tribune reported.

“Every Pakistani is saddened by the tragic incident that took place in Murree. All the sympathies of the government of Punjab go to the families of the deceased, ”said Buzdar, offering his condolences to the bereaved families.

According to the Dawn newspaper, relevant government departments, including the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and the Rawalpindi District Directorate, took no preventive action despite warnings of heavy snowfall issued days before. the Murree disaster.

No prior meeting has been called by NDMA with the administrations of the districts of Rawalpindi, Islamabad and other departments to discuss the problems of circulation and accommodation in the hill station, he said. The Met Office issued an alert on January 5 that heavy snowfall could lead to road closures in Murree, Galiyat, Nathiagali, Kaghan, Naran and other areas from January 6 to January 9 in the afternoon.

“It is particularly advisable for all authorities concerned to remain ‘vigilant’ during the forecast period,” said the Met Office.

Murree received 6.5 inches of snow on January 5 (Wednesday), followed by 8.5 inches the next day, while 16.5 inches were recorded from the morning of January 7 (Friday) to Saturday morning.

“This is normal snowfall for Murree,” a Met Office official told the daily.

Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Saturday he was shocked and upset by the tragic deaths of tourists on the road to Murree.

“Unprecedented snowfall and a rush of ppl proceeding without checking the weather conditions caught the district administrator off guard. Have ordered an investigation and put in place strict regulations to ensure the prevention of such tragedies, ” Khan said in a tweet.

The Punjabi government declared Murree a disaster area on Saturday after heavy snowfall wreaked havoc in the city.

Pakistan’s meteorological department had predicted heavy snowfall in Murree and Galiyat from January 6 to 9.

Opposition political leaders criticized the government for its handling of the influx of tourists and its lack of preparation.

Opposition leader in the National Assembly and PML-N chairman Shehbaz Sharif said he was heartbroken by the Murree tragedy and asked who was responsible for the deaths.

“Where was the government all this time? What arrangements has it made to cope with such an influx? Incompetence quickly turns into criminality. Pre-arrangements and 24-hour supervision were normal SOPs in the past, ”he tweeted.

Calling the deaths heartbreaking, PPP Vice President Sherry Rehman said governments “must be more vigilant in the face of the flood of tourists on Galiyat roads.”

Instead of looking for more tourists, the government should have issued a warning for the blocked roads. These were tragic and preventable losses that no one had foreseen, but no one acted in time either. We must learn from it, ” she added.

The job of governments is not only to count tourists but also to make advance arrangements and safety measures for them […] These deaths are not due to snowfall but to government negligence, ” PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz tweeted.

Due to continuous snowfall and traffic jams in Murree, the district administration has banned the entry of more vehicles.

Snowfall, which started Tuesday evening, continued at regular intervals, drawing thousands of tourists. However, due to the influx of visitors, many families found themselves stranded on the roads. It was reported that over 100,000 vehicles entered the hill station.

In a statement, traffic official Taimoor Khan said on Saturday that entry for vehicles into Murree was banned from Friday evening and cars were being diverted from toll plazas and other entrances.

He said since the snowfall began on Monday morning, more than 155,000 vehicles had entered Murree and 135,000 had so far left.

(This story was not edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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