Calamity in Murree as at least 22 tourists freeze to death in cars

At least 22 tourists stranded in their vehicles succumbed to the extreme weather during a snowstorm in Murree on Friday night, rescue and government officials confirmed on Saturday

Divisional Emergency Officer Rescue 1122 Dr Rehman, who is heading the rescue operation, said that 22 bodies have been recovered thus far including 10 males, two females, four boys and six girls

It was not immediately clear if people had died from asphyxiation after inhaling fumes in the snowdrift

“Were the deaths caused by cold or carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning?" Dr Faheem Yonus, chief of infectious diseases at the University of Maryland UCH, said in a tweet

"CO is odorless, lethal if an idling car is buried in snow, the blocked exhaust (silencer) can quickly kill the passengers as they breathe CO

" Tragic news from #Murree Were the deaths caused by cold or carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning? CO is odorless, lethal If an idling car is buried in snow, the blocked exhaust (silencer) can quickly kill the passengers as they breath COhttps://t

co/Fq1bKLOio4 — Faheem Younus, MD (@FaheemYounus) January 8, 2022 Prime Minister Imran Khan said he was ‘shocked’ and ‘upset’ by the tragedy in Murree as he ordered an inquiry into the incident

“Unprecedented snowfall & rush of ppl proceeding without checking weather conditions caught district admin unprepared,” the premier stated

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

— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) January 8, 2022   The PM said he had ordered an inquiry into the incident and was “putting in place strong regulation to ensure prevention of such tragedies”

According to Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid, who arrived in Murree to monitor the rescue operation, hundreds of vehicles were stranded in Murree whereas over 23,000 vehicles have been rescued

The interior minister said at least all vehicles have been rescued in Guliyat, whereas the vehicles in the Guldana region are still stranded that would be rescued soon

All types of traffic entering Murree from Rawalpindi and Islamabad has been banned till the end of the rescue operations, he added

مری اور گلیات میں پھنسے مسافروں کی امداد کی مانیٹرنگ کے لئے مری پہنچ گئے۔ برفباری کی وجہ سے 16 سے 19 سیاحوں کی اموات واقع ہوئی ہیں۔@GovtofPakistan @PakPMO @ImranKhanPTI pic


com/qTEKG47oRq — Sheikh Rashid Ahmed (@ShkhRasheed) January 8, 2022 The minister said heavy machinery has been called in to clear the roads and the help of the civil armed forces and the military has been sought to rescue the stranded tourists

The authorities have decided to use helicopters for rescue operations as well after the weather clears, he added

اسلام آباد : 8 جنوری مری جانے والے سیاحوں کے لئے اہم پیغام https://t

co/Tc0IG0EDvh@GovtofPakistan @PTVNewsOfficial pic


com/FntGcTQZFZ — Sheikh Rashid Ahmed (@ShkhRasheed) January 8, 2022 Troops called in for assistance The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement that all stranded people will be shifted to five army relief camps established in Murree Division

“Food, shelter will be provided to people affected by heavy snow fall

Army relief centres have been established at Army School of Technicians Barian, Military college Murree, Jhika Gali , APS Kuldana, Station supply Depot Sunny Bank,” it added

The military’s media wing said Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) dozers and army engineers were working to clear keep roads open

“Murree Express opened and cleared for any fresh snow by NHA/ FWO/ army engineers

” All resources at the disposal of Muree Division in terms of engineering machinery have been mobilised and will remain in the field till all people are evacuated, according to the statement

The ISPR added that special arrangements were also made to evacuate people on military transport

The military’s media wing later in the evening announced that all stranded vehicles were checked for stranded tourists

“All people in those vehicles [have been] shifted to relief camps,” it added

The ISPR further said that Military Engineers troops and dozers were still working to clear snow on Jheeka Gali-Kuldanna and Kuldanna-Barian roads

{{image_slider}} 'Emergency imposed' Meanwhile, the Punjab government has imposed an emergency in the region, declaring it a calamity-hit area, amid fears the death toll may increase

Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar has ordered the government guest houses in the area to give refuge to the stranded tourists

Emergency has been declared in all the important departments including police, administration, Rescue 1122, and hospitals, Radio Pakistan reported

Buzdar said that evacuating the stranded tourists is the top priority of the government, adding that the tourists are being provided with necessary relief items, including food supplies

Separately, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry requested the tourists not to plan trips towards upper areas of the country for a few days

He said a large number of people were going towards Murree and other places in the northern areas, adding that millions of vehicles were heading towards these spots

The minister said it has become impossible for the local administration to facilitate such a large number of people

He urged the people still at home to postpone their plans for a few days

IG National Highways and Motorway Police Inam Ghani had warned the tourists against travelling to Murree in the morning, saying that new vehicles had been barred from entering the hill station as snowfall started again

Please don't travel to Murree! Snowfall has started again

NHMP officers & NHA are working on clearing the Murree Expressway

Congestion in Murree & on expressway

People in the hotels for the night have come out on the roads

New vehicles are not being allowed to go to Murree

— Inam Ghani QPM & Bar, PSP (@InamGhani) January 8, 2022 At least 22 dead According to a statement, the tourists got stuck in the region on Friday at 11am after heavy snowfall resulted in massive traffic jams

It said a special rescue operation by the army started on January 8 and was still underway at the time this report was published

Read Plan afoot to keep Muree roads snow-free At least 22 bodies have been recovered which were shifted to the Army School of Logistics

It is feared the death toll will increase further

Among the deceased is an officer of the Islamabad police, ASI M Naveed Iqbal, 49, along with his 43-year-old wife and six kids - four daughters and two sons

They were travelling in a car bearing an Islamabad registration number 483

The deceased include 27-year-old Zahid, son of Zahoor, resident of Kamalabad, travelling in a Bolan carry

Thirty-one-year-old Ishfaq, son of Younis, resident of Gujranwala, travelling in a car registered as LEA 9312

Another body was identified as 31-year-old Maroof, son of Ashraf, resident of Lahore, who was travelling in a car registered as LEA 9312

Sohail Khan s/o Fazal, 27, a resident of Mardan was travelling in a car registered as VXR NG-424

Along with him, 22-year-old Asad, son of Zaman Shah, 21-year-old Bilal s/o Ghaffar, and 24-year-old Bilal Hussain s/o Syed Ghous Khan were also found dead in the car

A Rawalpindi family was also among the deceased

It comprised 46-year-old M Shahzad, son of Ismail, his 35-year-old wife and two sons

A 30-year-old, who was a resident of Lahore, travelling in a car bearing registration number LEA 9312 could not be identified

'Incompetent government' PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif expressed grief over the death of tourists and blamed the government’s incompetence for the loss of lives

He said such is the level of incompetence that the government cannot even take administrative measures to facilitate traffic movement

Where do you pin the responsibility of these deaths? Where was the government all the while? What arrangements did it make to deal with such an influx? Incompetence is fast turning into criminality

Prior arrangements & round the clock supervision were the normal SOPs in the past https://t

co/YExTtdGlad — Shehbaz Sharif (@CMShehbaz) January 8, 2022   "What a massive tragedy Murree is turning out to be! Heartbroken to learn about the loss of so many precious lives

My profound condolences & sympathies are with the bereaved families

May Allah rest the departed souls in peace," he added

PPP Senator Sherry Rehman termed the loss of precious lives a "massive tragedy"

She said the government surely needed to be more vigilant about the tourists influx in extreme weather conditions

Heartbreaking 💔 updates from Murree about the loss of 19 precious lives due to cars being trapped in heavy snowfall and traffic blocks

Govts surely need to be more vigilant about the flood of tourists on the Galiat routes in extreme weather

1/2 — SenatorSherryRehman (@sherryrehman) January 8, 2022 "These were tragic and avoidable losses which no one intended, but no one acted in time either," the senator tweeted

Instead of seeking more tourists Govt should have given a warning for jammed roads

This is the norm in perilous weather in all such destinations

These were tragic & avoidable losses which no one intended, but no one acted in time either

Lessons need to be learnt

#MurreeAlert — SenatorSherryRehman (@sherryrehman) January 8, 2022 She also urged the government to ramp up disaster preparedness

Some thousand cars are still stuck on the hill station in freezing temperatures

Over 155,000 vehicles have entered Murree since Monday but only 135,000 have left so far

Weather & traffic vigilance & disaster preparedness for these roads is not new

It has to be ramped up now

— SenatorSherryRehman (@sherryrehman) January 8, 2022 The PPP leader urged social media users to exercise restraint and stop posting about the people who have passed away

I would also urge social media users to please exercise some restraint and stop posting pictures & videos of people who have passed away in the #Murree tragedy

This is not the way their families would want to find out about their loss, nor should death be treated with indignity🙏 — SenatorSherryRehman (@sherryrehman) January 8, 2022 Traffic warning Authorities warned last weekend that too many vehicles were trying to enter Murree, but that failed to discourage hordes of daytrippers from the capital

"People are facing a terrible situation," Usman Abbasi, a tourist stuck in the town where heavy snow was still falling, told AFP by phone

"It's not only the tourists, but the local population is also facing severe problems," tourist Abbasi told AFP

"Gas cylinders have run out and drinking water is not available in most areas — it's either frozen or the water pipes have been damaged due to severe cold

" He said hotels in the town were running out of food, and mobile phone services were patchy

The town of around 30,000 clings to the side of steep hills and valleys and is serviced by narrow roads that are frequently clogged even in good weather

Interior Minister Rashid said residents had sheltered people trapped in the town and provided blankets and food to those they could reach on the outskirts

Authorities said schools and government buildings had taken in those who could make it to the town from the clogged roads

Helicopters were also on standby for when the weather cleared

Video shared on social media showed cars packed bumper-to-bumper, with one-metre-high (three-foot) piles of snow on their roofs

For days, social media has been full of pictures and video of people playing in the snow around Murree, a picturesque resort town

“Were the deaths caused by cold or carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning?" Dr Faheem Yonus, chief of infectious diseases at the University of Maryland UCH, said in a tweet

"CO is odorless, lethal if an idling car is buried in snow, the blocked exhaust (silencer) can quickly kill the passengers as they breathe CO

" (With additional input from agencies)

Date:09-Jan-2022 Reference:View Original Link