At least 21 people, most of them tourists, died due to a heavy snowstorm which trapped them for hours inside their vehicles in Pakistan’s Murree on Saturday. Pakistan’s Punjab province officials have declared Murree as a calamity-hit region hours after the incident, according to Pakistan news agency The Dawn. The news agency in its report also highlighted than at least nine among those dead were children.
The announcement regarding the death toll came from Pakistan interior minister Sheikh Rasheed, who in a video message, said that Murree saw unprecedented tourist footfall which may have contributed to the incident.
The Pakistan army is carrying out rescue operations with the locals.
Five platoons of the Pakistan Army and the police officials of Rawalpindi and Islamabad along with Rescue 1122 officials are present in the town and are carrying out rescue operations.
In a video shared on Twitter, locals were heard pleading to the government to ensure that the influx of tourists be halted. “Please send this message to the government. Please ask them to stop people from coming here, see there are at least 18-19 dead inside these cars. There are four people here who died due to lack of oxygen, refrain from coming here,” the man can be heard saying in the video shared on Twitter. News18 could not independently verify the authenticity of this video. Locals are also spearheading rescue efforts and according to the report by the Dawn, some locals also expressed hope that they will be able to rescue tourists stuck in cars by evening. The report also highlighted that the locals were supplying blankets and warm food to tourists stuck in the snowstorm.
Murree is 70 kilometres northeast of Islamabad. The Punjab province government urged people to stay away due to the snowstorm. Punjab province chief minister Usman Buzdar said that evacuating the stranded tourists was his first priority. The Punjab province government said that it has opened rest houses and state buildings for the tourists stuck in the snowstorm.
Netizens on Twitter have shared several images and videos where a large number of vehicles were seen stuck in Murree with many claiming that the town may have been ill-equipped to tackle the large number of tourists.