An army soldier stands near a damaged car on a road during a rescue operation to clear roads following a blizzard that started on January 7 which led to visitors being trapped in vehicles along the roads to the resort hill town of Murree, some 70 Kms northeast of Islamabad on January 9, 2022. - Army rescuers on January 9 cleared routes around the Pakistan hill town of Murree sheltering thousands of tourists after 22 people died in vehicles trapped by heavy snow. (Photo by Aamir QURESHI / AFP)

Life in calamity-stricken Murree, popularly known as Malika-e-Kohsar, has been struggling to become normal after 23 tourists died on Friday in a massive snowstorm.

It is reported that water and power are still suspended, while mobile phone service has not yet been restored fully.

Relief work is still underway, however, a majority of the tourists have been evacuated from the hill station.

It is learnt that some tourists have decided to stay at Murree for different reasons, while others have left their cars stranded at the hill station.

A team of the Pakistan Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) worked to restore electricity in Murree, but they could not complete the job due to extreme weather conditions.

BROKEN ROADS: A preliminary investigation report on the Murree tragedy has revealed that the roads in and around the hill station had not been repaired for the last two years as a result of which snow accumulated in the crevices that caused the traffic jam.

The report, submitted to the Punjab government on Sunday, disclosed that there was no government machinery to remove the snow that could have allowed the tourists to escape.

It was also revealed that because of power outages in different parts of Murree, tourists preferred to leave their hotels and stay in vehicles.

Due to the intervention of the Rawalpindi deputy commissioner and the central police officer on Saturday night, the movement of vehicles in Murree was banned.

The drivers of snow-removing machinery could not reach the scene in time because of the traffic gridlock on the roads.

However, the assistant commissioner and deputy superintendent of police were present there to ensure the smooth flow of traffic.

According to the report, there is no parking plaza in Murree where vehicles could be accommodated. The local authorities started the rescue operation after 8 am after the snowstorm had stopped.

PROBE COMMITTEE: Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar has formed a committee headed by the additional chief secretary for further investigation.

The body would focus on the following aspects:

(1) The Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) had issued several severe weather warnings for Murree. Did the concerned authorities, district administration, police, traffic police, C&W Department, NHA, NDMA, PDMA, etc. coordinate any joint plan of action to prevent a crisis situation?

(2) Were travel advisories issued through electronic, print or social media to warn people not to travel to Murree?

(3) Were any measures taken to control the influx of tourists into Murree?

(4) Was any traffic count kept of vehicles entering Murree? Why was the entry of tourists not stopped at the entry points in Islamabad and Galiyat when the vehicle numbers became unsustainable? (5) Was any contingency plan prepared to deal with a crisis situation, if it occurred: a) placement of snow removing machinery, vehicle lifters and snowmobiles at strategic points; b) deployment of sufficient traffic police personnel; c) coordination with emergency services such as Rescue 1122 and hospitals? Was any control room set up to respond to emergencies?

(6) Was any prior coordination made with local hotels and guest houses for the provision of emergency accommodation for stranded visitors?

(7) What was the efficacy of rescue operations, in particular during the blizzard? Why were people not asked to move out of vehicles and provided accommodation?

(8) What were the lapses that contributed to the crisis?

UNDUE ADVANTAGE: Meanwhile, former singer Rabi Pirzada disclosed in her social post that the locals were taking “undue advantage” of the stranded tourists. She posted a video of a tourist, who can be heard saying that the locals were “opportunists”.

She said two nights ago, the locals were selling an egg for Rs500 to the families in Murree. The hotel owners were charging between Rs30,000 and Rs50,000 for a room as well as selling a bottle of water for Rs500.

“They [labourers] were charging Rs3,000 for pushing a small car and Rs5,000 for a big car.”

“Now they have all become helpers and saints. This is a nation of hypocrites!”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here