Snow cleared after 22 people died at Pakistani resort
Authorities say roads at Pakistani resort are cleared after 22 people stranded in their cars in heavy snowstorm as temperatures drop
ISLAMABAD – The roads at a popular Pakistani resort town were cleared on Sunday after 22 people were trapped in their cars in a heavy snowstorm as temperatures dropped, officials said.
More than 1 meter of snow fell on Friday evening and early Saturday in the area of the resort town of Murree Hills, in the city of Murree, near the capital Islamabad. Heavy snow has buried or blocked hundreds of vehicles.
Most of the victims suffered from hypothermia when temperatures dropped to minus 8 degrees Celsius (17.6 Fahrenheit). A rescue doctor said some had died of carbon monoxide poisoning while running their car’s heating as their mufflers were suffocated in snow.
Punjabi police said in a statement that all roads in and around the complex had been cleared, but traffic entering the complex was still not allowed. Police said some 700 vehicles were removed from the snow and the remaining stranded tourists were taken to safety on Saturday evening. Most were taken to one of the five army-run relief camps and given medicine and hot meals.
Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government has come under heavy criticism for not being prepared for the situation and for acting too late, resulting in heavy loss of life. Opposition politicians Bilawal Zardari and Mariyam Nawaz have been among the criticisms of the government’s performance.
Khan admitted in a tweet that the administration was taken aback by the heavy snow and the large number of tourists visiting the resort. Traditionally, many Pakistanis, regardless of the weather forecast, flock to Murree Hills at the first snowfall.
Located 46 kilometers north of the capital of Islamabad, Murree is a popular winter resort that attracts over a million tourists each year. The streets leading to the city are often blocked by snow in winter.
Among the dead were a policeman from Islamabad and seven members of his family, a couple with two sons and two daughters from the garrison town of Rawalpindi and four friends from the northwestern town of Mardan. Their funeral was held in their hometowns on Sunday.
Islamabad officer Naveed Iqbal died with his sister, three nephews and three of his children. On his last phone call to his only surviving son, he said “we’re just going to turn on the heat and go to sleep”.