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Heavy snow kills 21 at Murree Hill Station in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – A minimum of 21 individuals died on Saturday when their automobiles obtained caught on snow-covered roads resulting in a well-liked vacationer city simply outdoors the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

Troopers rescued individuals from at the least 24,000 automobiles that had been stranded in heavy snow close to the hill station city of Murree, officers mentioned. Different snow-covered drivers and their passengers acquired blankets and meals.

“The place machines cannot get there, troops have been relocated, clearing visitors and opening roads,” mentioned an announcement by the Pakistani army.

Rescue staff mentioned the victims had been discovered lifeless of their automobiles, some might have died in a single day from carbon monoxide poisoning. The lifeless included a household with 4 daughters and two sons, all beneath 15 years previous.

The heavy snowfall in Murree and the northern areas of Pakistan was predicted by the nation’s meteorological division no later than January 5 and got here as a part of a broader chilly spell that struck the area, together with the Indian facet of the Himalayas.

Officers blamed giant numbers of vacationers for the catastrophe who didn’t take note of the climate forecast. Nonetheless, authorities critics mentioned native authorities had been ill-equipped to deal with the annual inflow and unprepared for emergencies.

Murree, a country mountain city 34 km northeast of Islamabad, is a well-liked vacationer vacation spot that draws a whole lot of 1000’s of holiday makers every year, and Prime Minister Imran Khan has personally promoted tourism within the space. A number of days in the past, the Pakistani info minister, Fawad Chaudhry, praised the sturdy inflow of vacationers. 100,000 automobiles entered Murree.

However on Saturday, Mr Chaudhry urged individuals to cancel their journey plans because it had develop into unimaginable for native officers to cater for such a lot of individuals. And when the catastrophe struck, the prime minister appeared in charge vacationers for negligence.

“Unprecedented snowfalls and an onslaught of people that proceed with out checking the climate circumstances have taken the district administrator off guard,” Khan mentioned on Twitter.

Critics say that regardless of Murree’s proximity to the nation’s capital and regardless of the predictable nature of the excessive vacationer stream every year, the native authorities are sometimes overwhelmed by the big variety of guests.

“It is appalling {that a} tragedy like that is occurring on the streets of the nation’s busiest hill station,” mentioned Sarah N. Ahmad, an city coverage specialist who based City Innovation, a analysis and advocacy group based mostly in Lahore . “These deaths had been utterly preventable and the federal government is accountable to the individuals for this oversight.”

Heavy snow on the Indian facet blocked roads and disrupted visitors within the Kashmir area and the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh.

Flights have been repeatedly canceled in Srinagar, capital of India-administered Kashmir, the place vacationers flock to the snow and ski in droves.

There have additionally been experiences of snow blockades between Srinagar and Ladakh, a border area on the heart of current army tensions between India and China. Tens of 1000’s of Indian and Chinese language troops could have a second winter at excessive altitude and in icy temperatures after skirmishes between the army of the 2 international locations in the summertime of 2020.

Mujib Mashal contributed to protection from New Delhi, India.

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