ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — At the least 21 individuals died on Saturday when their vehicles grew to become caught on snow-covered roads resulting in a well-liked vacationer city simply exterior Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital.
Troopers rescued individuals from not less than 24,000 automobiles stranded by heavy snow close to the hill station city of Murree, officers stated. Different snowbound drivers and their passengers got blankets and meals.
“The place equipment can’t attain, troops have been moved and they’re clearing visitors and opening roads,” learn an announcement by the Pakistani navy.
Rescue officers stated the victims had been discovered lifeless of their automobiles, some probably dying of carbon monoxide poisoning in a single day. The lifeless included a household of 4 daughters and two sons, all underneath 15 years of age.
The heavy snowfall in Murree and Pakistan’s northern areas was predicted by the nation’s meteorological division no later than Jan. 5, and got here as a part of a broader wave of chilly climate affecting the area, together with the Indian facet of the Himalayas.
Officers blamed the catastrophe on massive numbers of vacationers who failed to think about climate forecasts. However critics of the federal government stated the native authorities had been ill-equipped to deal with the annual inflow and underprepared to cope with emergency conditions.
Murree, a country mountainside city 21 miles northeast of Islamabad, is a well-liked vacationer vacation spot that draws a whole lot of hundreds of holiday makers yearly, and Prime Minister Imran Khan has personally promoted tourism to the world. A couple of days in the past, Fawad Chaudhry, the Pakistani data minister, praised the heavy influx of vacationers, saying 100,000 automobiles had entered Murree.
However on Saturday, Mr. Chaudhry was issuing pleas for individuals to cancel their journey plans because it had develop into unimaginable for native officers to cater to such massive numbers of individuals. And as catastrophe hit, the prime minister gave the impression to be blaming the vacationers for negligence.
“Unprecedented snowfall & rush of ppl continuing with out checking climate situations caught district admin unprepared,” Mr. Khan stated on Twitter.
Critics say regardless of Murree’s proximity to the nation’s capital, and regardless of the predictable nature of the heavy vacationer circulation yearly, the native authorities are sometimes overwhelmed by the big variety of guests.
“For a tragedy like this to occur on the roads of the nation’s most frequented hill station is appalling,” stated Sarah N. Ahmad, an city coverage specialist who based City Innovation, a analysis and advocacy group based mostly in Lahore. “These deaths had been fully avoidable and the federal government is answerable to the individuals for this oversight.”
Heavy snowfall on the Indian facet blocked roads and disrupted transport within the Kashmir area in addition to within the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh.
Flights had been repeatedly canceled in Srinagar, the capital metropolis of Indian-administered Kashmir, the place vacationers are flocking to the snow and snowboarding.
There have been additionally reviews of snow blocking roads between Srinagar and Ladakh, a border area on the heart of current navy tensions between India and China. Tens of hundreds of Indian and Chinese language troops stay in excessive altitudes and freezing temperatures for a second winter after skirmishes between the 2 nations’ militaries in the summertime of 2020.
Mujib Mashal contributed reporting from New Delhi, India.