RAWALPINDI: At least 22 tourists stranded in their vehicles succumbed to the extreme weather during a snowstorm in Murree as the federal government deployed personnel of the Pakistan Army and other civil-armed forces for rescue operations.
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.
The traffic jams were exacerbated by heavy snowfall overnight, which resulted in road blockages. In some instances, the snowstorm and intense winds had also uprooted trees that had fallen on the roads.
MM News footage from Saturday evening showed queues of cars loaded with tourists, hours after Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar issued instructions to expedite rescue work and provide aid to those stranded.
According to MM News, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, CPO Rawalpindi Sajid Kayani and other senior officials are present at spot. “More than 37,000 vehicles have been evacuated from Murree while no all kind of traffic is banned to enter the hill station,” the correspondent said.
Several cars are still trapped in snow as rescue operation continued until the night fell. It has been suspended due to darkness and unavailability of power. The meteorological department has forecast another snowstorm for Saturday night.
Locals have claimed that the death toll could be in the hundreds, as food and hotel accommodation in the hill station were running out. MM News correspondent has asserted that Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar has also handed over his helicopter for rescue operation, so that people from remote areas can be rescued.
MM News reported that the entire operation was being supervised by the Pakistan Army. The army personnel present on the spot said that they have stopped the vehicles from moving forward to save the rescue operation from other problems.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has expressed concerned over the incident and has also ordered an inquiry. The government was sharply criticized by the opposition after the tragedy.