Lahore: The death toll due to unprecedented snowfall and rush of tourists in Pakistan’s popular hill station of Murree reached 23 on Sunday after a minor girl, suffering from severe cold and pneumonia, died as she could not be rushed to the hospital in time.
Thousands of people visited Murree after the picturesque town in Rawalpindi in Punjab province received a record-breaking snowfall, leaving the local administration helpless and freezing to death at least 22 people, including 10 children, in their stranded vehicles.
The death of a four-year-old girl has pushed the toll to 23. The minor girl died in Jhika Gali. She was suffering from severe cold and pneumonia, according to rescue sources, adding that she lost her life as she could not be rushed to the hospital in time.
Rescue officials told Geo News at least 23 people have died thus far as vehicles continue to remain trapped in several feet of snow. The toll was later confirmed by Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed in a statement on Saturday night.
The minister said that the situation can only be described as a “natural calamity” and that the area had witnessed “extreme snowfall”.
The cars were prevented from moving on to Murree, people began proceeding there on foot, and they too were stopped, he said. The minister said that the deaths were caused due to “suffocation”.
The Prime minister’s aide on political communication Shahbaz Gill said people left their cars on the roads to seek shelter in hotels when it began to snow heavily which resulted in hampering the flow of traffic.
“The administration remains active and is trying its utmost to ensure all roads are clear for traffic,” he said.
Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar will visit the snow-affected regions of Murree on Sunday after the area was declared “calamity-stricken, The Express Tribune reported.
Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Saturday he was shocked and upset at the tragic deaths of tourists on the road to Murree.
“Unprecedented snowfall & rush of ppl proceeding without checking weather conditions caught district admin unprepared. Have ordered inquiry & putting in place strong regulation to ensure prevention of such tragedies,” Khan said in a tweet.
The Punjab government declared Murree as a calamity-hit area on Saturday after heavy snowfall wreaked havoc in the city.
The Pakistan Meteorological Department had predicted heavy snowfall in Murree and Galiyat from January 6 to 9.
In a statement, Chief Traffic Officer Taimoor Khan said on Saturday the entry of vehicles into Murree had been banned from Friday night onwards and cars were being diverted from toll plazas and other entrances.
He said since snowfall started on Monday morning, more than 155,000 vehicles had entered Murree and 135,000 had so far left.