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Major roads cleared in Murree as rescue operation continues

Major roads cleared in Murree as rescue operation continues

Officials on Sunday continued to work on clearing snow from roads in and around Murree a day after 22 people, including women and children, died in their vehicles trapped by heavy snowfall.

In a tweet, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Political Communication Dr Shahbaz Gill said that all major arteries to Murree had been cleared for traffic.

"Around 600 to 700 cars were evacuated from the area last night," he said, adding that Rawalpindi police, the district administration and Pakistan Army soldiers worked through the night.

"Police officials are present on the roads leading to Murree from Islamabad and Rawalpindi. The roads will remain closed for today," he said.

Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar visited the hill station. According to the Chief Minister's Office, Buzdar will visit the areas most affected by the snowfall and also be briefed about the rescue and relief work.

In an update shared late night on Saturday, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said that more then 300 people had been provided medical care by a team of army doctors and paramedics.

Meals were served to more than 1,000 stranded people in Jhika Gali, Kashmiri Bazar, Lower Topa and Kuldana, the statement said.

"Stranded people have been accommodated and provided shelter with hot meal[s] and tea at Military College Murree, Supply Depot, Army Public School and Army Logistics School Kuldana," it added.

A day earlier, the army and the district administration had launched a massive operation to rescue stranded tourists in and around Murree.

To enjoy snowfall, tens of thousands of people thronged Punjab’s hill town of Murree but a large number of vehicles stranded in 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.

On Saturday morning, the Punjab government decla­red the area in and around Murree calamity-hit area. The website of the National Weather Forecasting Centre said heavy snowfall was expected in the area until Sunday afternoon.

Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed sorrow and grief over the tragedy, ordered an inquiry into the incident and asked the authorities concerned to put in place strong regulation to ensure prevention of such tragedy.

In a tweet, the prime minister said, “Shocked and upset at tragic deaths of tourists on road to Murree. Unprecedented snowfall and rush of people proceeding without checking weather conditions caught district admin unprepared. Have ordered inquiry and putting in place strong regulation to ensure prevention of such tragedies.”

The Punjab chief minister imposed state of emergency in hospitals, police stations, administration offices and Rescue 1122 service, while Pakistan Army troops reached to help with rescue work.

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 the last 15 to 20 years which created a crisis.

He said 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 taking food and blankets for stranded people.

The meteorological department recorded 32 inches’ snowfall in the hill town during the last two days. “It is not unusual snowfall in the area as in the winter, an average 64-inche snowfall is recorded in Murree,” said Irfan Virik, deputy director of meteorological department while talking to Dawn.

He said that meteorological department had issued weather advisory and warned the departments concerned.

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