- Interior minister says help of armed forces, Rangers has been sought to rescue stranded tourists in Murree and Galiyat
- Sheikh Rashid urges tourists to avoid travelling to the area
At least 22 tourists have died in the cars stuck in Murree due to snowfall and subsequent traffic congestion, reported Aaj News on Saturday.
Earlier, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said 16 to 19 people died in the cars stranded in the snow. He stated that at least 1,000 cars are still stuck in Murree, adding that authorities have rescued some, and turned back others.
"Around 16 to 19 deaths have occurred in cars," he said in the video message.
The minister further said the help of civil armed forces, Rangers has been sought to evacuate the stranded people in Murree and Galiyat.
"God willing, we will rescue 1,000 cars by evening today (Saturday). We have decided to stop people travelling on foot as well."
Rashid requested tourists to avoid travelling to Murree and Galiyat, and urged the locals to come forward to help the stranded people.
Moreover, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar has declared an emergency in Murree and directed the chief secretary, IG Police, Relief Commissioner, DG Rescue and PDMA to conduct self-monitoring of rescue activities.
In a tweet, the CM said that he has directed all agencies in Murree to expedite the rescue and evacuation of citizens and vehicles trapped in the snow.
He further said that he has also ordered more machinery and relief goods from Rawalpindi. Buzdar shared that more than 23,000 cars were evacuated from the area the night before and the rescue operation was going on.
Later, Pakistan Army troops reached Murree to help with the rescue work. The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said army engineers also reached the area to help open up the main highways.
PM Imran orders inquiry
Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted that he was shocked by the incident and ordered an inquiry.
The premier noted that an unprecedented snowfall and rush of people “proceeding without checking weather conditions had caught district management unprepared.”
"Putting in place strong regulation to ensure prevention of such tragedies," he wrote.
'Citizens should postpone their upland tour plan'
Meanwhile, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhary asked the citizens to postpone their upland tour plan for a few days.
In a tweet on Saturday, Fawad said thousands of vehicles are heading towards Murree and other high places, adding that it has become impossible for the local administration to provide facilities to such a large number of people.
On Friday, the government temporarily blocked all routes leading to Murree and Galiyat to avoid any untoward situation amid extreme weather conditions.
The decision came after heavy snowfall triggered an avalanche in Murree, creating difficulties for tourists stuck on the roads.
Later, the National Highways & Motorway Police (NHMP) confirmed that the hill station had been closed for traffic.
“We request all motorists and tourists to cooperate with the authorities,” the motorway police wrote on its official Twitter account.
The NHMP further asked motorists to call on 130 if it is absolutely necessary for them to travel to Murree.