Pakistan snowstorm: Why locals are angry with govt after blizzard claims at 22 lives
At least 22 people, including 10 children, died in Murree near Islamabad after a sudden snowstorm blocked roads, leading to them being trapped in their cars for more than 24 hours
At least 22 people, including 10 children, died in a popular mountain resort town in Pakistan after being stuck in their vehicles overnight during a heavy snowstorm.
According to officials, most of the victims died of hypothermia.
Locals, who were caught in the blizzard in Murree, questioned the weather conditions, saying they had not received any kind of warning from the government, Google, or even the news.
Blizzard in Pakistan’s Murree
The mountain-perch town — 70 kilometres northeast of Islamabad — has long been a favourite for tourists, who swarmed to see vistas dusted with fresh snowfall this week.
However, a blizzard hit the town on Friday, causing trees to fall down and blocking roads in and out of the town just north of the capital.
According to Tariq Ullah, an official in the nearby town of Nathiagali, the blizzard dumped up to 1.5 metres of snow within just a few hours.
"It was unprecedented," he told AFP news agency. "There were strong winds, uprooted trees, avalanches. People around were terrified."
The extreme weather conditions caused roads to be blocked and around 1,000 cars became stranded.
"People here were literally weeping... when they heard," 47-year-old tourist Kashif Ishaq was quoted as saying to AFP.
Prime Minister Imran Khan said he was shocked and upset by the tragedy, but that the unprecedented snowfall and rush of people "caught district admin unprepared".
Roads cleared a day later
Twenty-four hours later, Punjab police said in a statement that all roads in and around the resort had been cleared but that incoming traffic to the resort was still not allowed.
Police said some 700 vehicles were pulled from the snow and the remaining stranded tourists were taken to safety. Most were taken to one of five military-run relief camps and provided with medication and hot meals.
Pakistan newspapers, however, slammed officials, noting the country's weather bureau had issued a warning as early as 6 January of the approaching blizzard. "All concerned authorities are particularly advised to remain 'ALERT' during the forecast period," the National Weather Forecasting Centre had said on Thursday, adding "heavy snowfall" could cause road closures in Murree and elsewhere.
Reacting to the outrage and outpouring of grief, authorities have promised an investigation.
"Our first priority was rescue, which is ongoing, then relief," Hasaan Khawar, spokesman for the Punjab provincial government, said in a video on his Twitter page Sunday.
ریسیکیو ۱۱۲۲، پولیس، انتظامیہ، پی ڈی ایم اے، این ایچ اے اور فوج سمیت تمام متعلقہ اداروں نے مربوط انداز میں صورتحال کی سنگینی میں کمی کی کوشش کی
وزیراعظم کی ہدایات کی روشنی میں ہر پہلو سے تحقیقات مکمل کریں گے
سانحے سے نظام میں موجود نقائص کی نشاندہی کرکے بہتر سسٹم وضع کریں گے
— Hasaan Khawar (@hasaankhawar) January 9, 2022
"Then a high-level inquiry will be launched and if there is any kind of negligence, then action will be taken against all those involved."
With inputs from agencies