At least 22 dead as heavy snow traps vehicles in Pakistan resort
At least 22 people have frozen to death after heavy snow trapped them in their vehicles as tens of thousands of visitors thronged Pakistan’s hill town of Murree, officials say, The Gaussian reported.
Videos circulated on social media in which people are seen dead in stranded cars covered with the snow. In the past few days, more than 100,000 cars entered Murree, a hill station 24 miles away from Pakistan’s capital, to enjoy the snowfall.
In the past 24 hours there has been heavy snowfall, and all routes leading to the hilltown were closed due to heavy traffic, leaving thousands of cars stranded.
The interior minister, sheikh Rashid Ahmed, in a video message said tourists visiting the area in large numbers for the first time in 15 to 20 years had created a huge crisis.
Ahmed said administrations were working to rescue the stranded people and five platoons of the Pakistan Army had been called on to help.
One man, Tayyab Gondal, shared the last voice messages he had received from his cousin Naveed Iqbal, with local media.
Iqbal is heard saying: “We are stranded in the car for 18 and 20 hours and waiting and how much more to wait. May God something work out and we are really worried.”
Many tourists stranded in Murree told local media they are having issues getting food, accommodation and help.
The prime minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, tweeted: “Shocked & upset at tragic deaths of tourists on 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.”
But hundreds of activists, journalists and politicians criticised the prime minister’s response and described his tweet as insensitive.
Replying to Khan’s tweet, Absa Komal, a senior journalist, said: “Insensitive and shocking response, it is your administration’s failure, accept it at least! They could have easily taken preventive measures knowing that a huge number of people were heading towards Murree.”