About two dozen people died from hypothermia at a resort in Pakistan

Al Jazeera
About two dozen people died from hypothermia at a resort in Pakistan

At least two dozen tourists died amid heavy snowfall trapped then in their cars in Murree, Al Jazeera reports.

Located about 50km (22 miles) north of the capital, Islamabad, Murree is a popular winter resort that attracts more than one million tourists annually. Streets leading into the city are often blocked by snow in winter. The military was mobilized this week to clear roads and rescue trapped people, Pakistani Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said, adding that at least 16 to 19 people have died in their vehicles. Atik Ahmed, an Islamabad police officer, said eight of the deaths from hypothermia were family members of another Islamabad police officer, Navid Iqbal, who also died. Prime Minister Imran Khan has ordered inquiry and putting in place strong regulations to ensure prevention of such tragedies.

Heavy snow warnings

Snowfall, which began on Tuesday night, continued at regular intervals, attracting thousands of tourists. Because of the huge numbers of visitors, many families ended up getting stranded on roads. “This is an example of systemic failure because according to reports, about 100,000 vehicles headed to the hill station, one that has narrow roads,” said Al Jazeera’s correspondent. “There were warnings of heavy snow and that led to a total catastrophe because people were stuck in their vehicles, entire families. Their vehicles were buried under heaps of snow.”

Interior Minister Atik Ahmed said more than 1.2 meters of snow fell in the area overnight and all incoming traffic was blocked on Saturday. Paramilitary troops and a special military mountain unit were called in to help. Neither vehicles nor pedestrians are allowed to enter Murri, with the exception of rescue vehicles and those delivering food for stuck people. Heavy snowfall prevented rescue efforts at night, and the snow was so severe that heavy equipment brought in to clear it initially got stuck during the night. But the stranded tourists were still given food and blankets. The Punjab Provincial Chief Minister's office said Murri had been declared a disaster area and urged people to stay away from traveling to the area.