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Roads cleared after 22 die in snowstorm at Pakistani resort
9 January 2022, 11:54
Hundreds of vehicles became stranded after more than 4ft of snow fell in the area of Murree Hills, near the capital Islamabad, on Friday and Saturday.
Roads at a popular Pakistani resort were cleared on Sunday after the deaths of 22 people who were stuck in their cars during a heavy snowstorm as temperatures plummeted, officials said.
More than 4ft (1.2m) of snow fell in the area of the Murree Hills resort in the town of Murree, near the capital Islamabad, on Friday night and early on Saturday, causing hundreds of vehicles to become buried or otherwise stranded.
Most of the victims suffered hypothermia as temperatures fell to minus 8C (17.6F).
A rescue medic said some died of carbon monoxide poisoning from running their car heaters while their exhaust pipes were clogged with snow.
Punjab police said in a statement that all roads in and around the resort have now been cleared but that incoming traffic to the resort is still not allowed.
Officers said some 700 vehicles were pulled from the snow and the remaining stranded tourists were taken to safety on Saturday night. Most were taken to one of five military-run relief camps and provided with medication and hot meals.
The government of Prime Minister Imran Khan came under heavy criticism for not being prepared for the situation and for acting too late, causing the heavy loss of human lives.
Opposition politicians Bilawal Zardari and Mariyam Nawaz were among critics of the government’s performance.
Mr Khan acknowledged in a tweet that the administration was caught unprepared by the heavy snow and huge number of tourists travelling to the Murree Hills.
Traditionally many Pakistanis, regardless of the weather forecast, flock to the town at the first report of snow.
The area, 28 miles (46km) north of Islamabad, is a popular winter resort that attracts well over a million tourists annually. Streets leading into the town are often blocked by snow in winter.
Among the dead were an Islamabad police officer and seven members of his family, a couple with two sons and two daughters from the garrison city of Rawalpindi, and four friends from the north-western city of Mardan. Their funerals took place in their native towns on Sunday.
The Islamabad officer, Naveed Iqbal, died along with his sister, three nephews and three of his children.
In his last telephone call to his only surviving son, he said: “We are just going to turn on the heat and go to sleep.”