Murree declared calamity hit after at least 21 freeze to death in cars stranded in snow
Murree, JAN 8: Murree was declared calamity hit on Saturday after at least 21 people froze to death in cars stranded in snow amid a glut of tourist influx.
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.
Moreover, entry of cars into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Galiyat was banned, according to the province’s chief minister.
According to a list issued by Rescue 1122, 21 people died, including nine children.
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, while 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.
Ahmed said that residents of Murree provided food and blankets to stranded tourists, adding that 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 [travelling] on foot as well. It is no time for [pedestrian] tourists to visit.”
The Pakistan Meteorological Department had predicted heavy snowfall in Murree and Galiyat from January 6 to 9.
Murree declared calamity hit
Meanwhile, 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.
He also directed the provincial chief secretary, inspector general of police, relief commissioner, director general Rescue 1122 and director general of the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) to undertake rescue work, in addition to providing his helicopter to help with aid efforts.
In a statement issued by his office, the chief minister said that rescuing stranded tourists was the “foremost priority”, adding that all rest houses and state buildings had been opened to them.
The process to rescue the tourists has been expedited while food and essential items are also being provided, Buzdar said.
He also expressed sadness over the deaths of people stuck in the snow, saying he was with the families in their grief.
The chief minister shared the same in a tweet later in the day, saying he had issued orders to accelerate work to rescue citizens stuck in the snow and send more machinery from Rawalpindi.
More than 23,000 cars were evacuated from the area the night before and 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.
Pakistan Army troops reached Murree to help with the rescue work. In a statement, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said army engineers also reached the area to help open up the main highways.
The military’s media wing later said that its engineers troops cleared Murree Expressway.
“Heavy machinery from Murree, army engineers Division and FWO are working without any pause to assist people who are struck,” the ISPT said, adding: “Where machinery can’t reach, troops have been moved and they are clearing traffic and opening roads.”
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