Thousands of tourists were trapped on roads leading to a popular mountain resort in Pakistan.
Nearly two dozen people, including families with children who were on their way to a Murree ski resort in Punjab, Pakistan, have frozen to death or suffocated in their cars after being trapped by unusually heavy snowstorm.
In the majority of cases the death was caused by hypothermia, while some of the victims may have suffered asphyxiation from car fumes, authorities said. The list of 22 victims released by rescue officials includes the names of 10 children. According to Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid, “around a thousand cars” have been stranded on the highway leading to Murree since Friday night. Military personnel, police and rescue service teams were deployed to evacuate people from their vehicles with local residents providing help to the trapped tourists.
— sajjad Abbasi (@sajjadAbbasi4) January 8, 2022
The helicopter rescue operation, however, had to be delayed due to severe weather conditions.
Pakistan Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid says the military has mobilised to clear roads and rescue thousands still trapped near Murree after at least 21 died in vehicles trapped by snowstorm pic.twitter.com/U5DaM5CR0Z
— TRT World Now (@TRTWorldNow) January 8, 2022
Reacting to the tragedy, the country’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said that he was “shocked” and “upset,” adding that he had ordered an inquiry and put in place “strong regulation” to prevent such incidents from happening in the future.
Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad has said that 16 to 19 people have died in the cars that have been stuck in Murree due to snowfall and subsequent traffic congestion, reported Aaj News on Saturday.
— Business Recorder (@brecordernews) January 8, 2022
“Unprecedented snowfall & rush of ppl proceeding without checking weather conditions caught district admin unprepared,” the prime minister wrote on Twitter.
While he primarily blamed the weather and local authorities for their failure to prevent the tragedy, the prime minister’s choice of words has evoked a wave of criticism on social media with some users calling it “shocking” and “insensitive.”
— Islamabad Police (@ICT_Police) January 8, 2022
Though the tragedy shocked Pakistan, the Murree resort town, founded by the British during the colonial era, regularly sees its roads blocked due to snowfalls and the town’s popularity, with more than a million people visiting annually.