22 tourists shiver to death as Army, Rangers call in calamity-hit Murree

Emergency imposed as stranded tourists cry for help in overcrowded Murree and Galyat: Murree Road closed, thousands stranded in the open: Govt asking people to avoid visit to upper areas

By: News Desk
Published: 11:22 AM, 8 Jan, 2022
22 tourists shiver to death as Army, Rangers call in calamity-hit Murree
Caption: TV grab shows vehicles covered in thick snow.
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At least 22 tourists including women and children shivered to death as Army, Frontier Corps and Rangers were called in to rescue thousands of tourists stranded in the frosty cold of Murree and Galyat after the authorities imposed an emergency in the hill station declaring it a calamity-hit area on Saturday, reported 24NewsHD TV.

The authorities invoked the emergency after the normal life was paralysed due to the heavy snowfall last night. 

The deceased belonged to Lahore, Gujranwala, Islamabad and Mardan including eight members of the same family.

Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed said they have the reports that the number of deaths inside the vehicles buried under the snow was 19 including women and children and it might rise.

Five platoons of Army and personnel of Rangers and Frontier Corps were summoned in for the rescue operation as local administrations crumbed in face of the daunting situation.

Thousands of tourists have been stranded in Murree and Galyat following heavy snowfall that has slammed the frigid picnic spots owing to which the administration has closed the Murree Road for all kinds of traffic.

The tourists who reached Murree and Galyat to enjoy winter’s snowfall have stuck there as more than 100,000 vehicles of the holidaymakers have created the worst kind of snarl at these hilly resorts. 

Thousands of sightseers spent their night on roads, in their vehicles buried under the snow, calling for help. A great number of tourists are thronging these areas which are receiving heavy snowfall of the season becoming a big attraction for them. A huge number of tourists have taken the Murree and Galyat administrations off guard as roads and hotels have become fully packed. 

In order to tackle the situation, the city administration has banned the entry of vacationers to Murree. It is allowing only ambulances and security and fire brigade vehicles to enter Murree

The administration has created a control room at the deputy commissioner’s office in Rawalpindi. 

Motorway police spokesman Yasir Mehmood said that both Motorway and National Highway Authority police were busy helping the stranded tourists. He appealed to people to not plan any unnecessary visit to Murree asking them to take information regarding their journey to the hilly areas on the motorway police’s helpline 130.

Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad said that tourists had thronged Murree Galyat in such a great number that even after 12 hours, the administration was unable to open up the roads. 

He said that the administration was seeking the help of the civil armed forces. He apologized to the stranded tourists who left for Murree yesterday night. He also appealed to locals to extend help to the marooned holidaymakers. He stated he himself was monitoring all the measures taken by the administration in this regard.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry in his tweet on Saturday also appealed to the tourists to postpone their visit to the upper areas of the country as a huge deluge of vehicles was already going to Murree and other upper areas. It is impossible to provide facilities to a large number of tourists for the local administration, he added. 

Galyat Development Authority (GDA) spokesperson Ahsan Hameed in an official statement said on Friday that Galyat has a large number of tourists, so do not travel further.

Abbottabad Galyat Development Authority Director General Raza Habib while talking to the media said Galyat region has a capacity of only 20,000 tourists. But, around one lakh tourists have entered the region. All hotels are booked and no more rooms are available, he added.

The GDA spokesman said the tourists in Galyat should take precautionary measures as a road is closed due to a landslide in Kandla. Due to heavy snowfall, it is not possible to clear the road immediately as well as wrong parking on the side of the road is also a major reason for road blockade, Hameed added. 

He warned the tourists to avoid travelling between Tauhidabad and Donga Gali.

Meanwhile, the hotel owners have offered free accommodation and food to the stranded tourists.

Punjab CM declares Murree disaster-hit area, imposes emergency

Punjab Chief Minister Usman Bazdar declared a state of emergency in Murree after the situation deteriorated due to heavy snowfall and tourists rush in Murree.

In a tweet on the social networking site, the Punjab government said, "The Punjab Chief Minister has declared a state of emergency in Murree and declared the city a disaster."

The statement said that all the rest houses and government institutions in Murree and adjoining areas have been opened for tourists while the Chief Minister has also donated his helicopter for rescue operations which will take part in relief activities as the weather improves. ۔

The provincial government said that Army and Rangers personnel have also been called in for the rescue operation, while the Chief Secretary, IG Police, Relief Commissioner, DG Rescue and the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) has been directed to conduct self-monitoring of rescue activities.

Usman Bazdar said in his tweet that "all agencies in Murree area have been directed to expedite the process of rescue and evacuation of citizens and vehicles trapped in the snow and to send more machinery and relief goods from Rawalpindi".

Punjab Chief Minister and IG Punjab to Rawalpindi police on heavy snowfall in Murree and Galyat.

Inspector General of Punjab Police (IG) ordered to help on an emergency basis. He also ordered immediate evacuation of women, the elderly and children and provision of warm blankets and food.

Reporter Haider Ali