SRINAGAR: The Friday snowfall, the first major one this winter, proved pleasant to Kashmir but was devastating on the other side of the LoC. An unprecedented snowstorm froze Pakistan’s hill resort of Murree.
As many as 22 people have lost their lives after being trapped in the snowfall at the hill station. Most of them were caught in their cars while fleeing from the resort.
“To enjoy snowfall, tens of thousands of people thronged Punjab’s hill town of Murree but a large number of vehicles were stranded in the snow on Friday night and 22 people died. Eight of them froze to death in their cars and others probably died from asphyxiation after inhaling exhaust fumes in snow-bound vehicles,” Pakistan newspaper, Dawn reported.
Pakistan’s Meteorological Department had forecast heavy rain and snowfall in the region. TV footage showed cars being buried under a blanket of thick snow. After the situation got out of control, the Pakistan army was brought in to bolster the rescue operations.
The report said that the army and civil administration launched a massive operation to rescue stranded tourists in and around Murree after 22 people including women and children were found dead in their vehicles trapped in snowfall. The Nathiangali-Abbottabad road witnessed around 7 ft of snow.
“Many people have already been transferred to safe areas and with the help of district administration all the commercial places including restaurants have been directed to make arrangements to accommodate additional people” the newspaper quoted a police officer saying.
As per various media reports, over 1,40,000 cars had entered Murree this week to witness snowfall. Pakistan’s Interior Minister, Sheikh Rasheed in a video statement had said that it was for the first time that such a large number of people visited the hill station, which he said led to the crisis.
Rasheed said that 23,000 cars were brought back on Saturday while an operation to rescue another 1000 was underway. As per Samaa TV, reports of delays in all roads leading to Murree surfaced on Friday evening. “The deaths were reported on Saturday morning and first confirmed by Sheikh Rasheed.”
Samaa TV reported that Jhika Gali and Kuldana Road were two of the worst-hit areas. “Most of the deaths occurred on Kuldana Road.”
Located in the exterior of the Pir Panchal range, Muree is Pakistan’s Shimla. It evolved in the last more than 100 years after the East India Company started a sanatorium for its troops. It attracts almost 25000 tourists every month.