By Our Staff Reporter
Twenty people including a mid-career police officer and seven members of his family among 22 people including 10 children, died in Murree, a popular hill station situated at a distance of Islamabad after being stuck in their vehicles overnight during a heavy snowstorm.
According to officials, most of the victims died of hypothermia. However, a timely help from the administration of Punjab province saved lives of large number of tourists by shifting them to camps, government owned resorts and rest houses.
This winter Murree received little above 4 feet (1 meter) of snowfall trapping as many as 22000 cars on roadways. The snow was so severe that heavy equipment brought in to clear it initially got stuck during the night. TV footage shows heavy machinery including cranes met accident as well. A crane turned over turtled while clearing the snow in the town of Murree.
Kamaran Ali Afzal, Chief Secretary Punjab took notice of the problems faced by tourists in Murree and instructed Rawalpindi administration to provide every possible help to stranded tourists. Later on, he took to twitter sharing his direct contact number for tourists advising them to get in touch directly if they were in need of help.
“Contact me at my cell Number——– anytime if you need help. I will be there round the clock,” Chief Secretary of country’s biggest province of Punjab said.
This Correspondent dropped a text message at his cell phone around 1:45 AM to check his response. It was a pleasant surprise to hear back from province top bureaucrat within five minutes.
“Sir, I am around. How can I help you,” Punjab province’s top bureaucrat asked while responding to a text message in five minutes.
This correspondent got to know Chief Secretary Punjab received as many as fifty calls from the tourists who unfortunately got struck in the traffic jam. All of them received help within a few minutes after communicating with Chief Secretary Punjab Kamran Afzal. It is worth noting that Chief Secretary Punjab had shared his direct number on twitter advising tourists to contact him directly if they were in need of assistance.
“It is our duty,” Mr. Kamran said when contacted for comments.
Federal government called troops to assist to assist civil administration in facilitating the tourists. Until Saturday evening thousands of vehicles had been pulled from the snow but more than a thousand were still stuck, Ahmed said.
According to Assistant Commissionaire Murree, most roads leading to the Murree’s resorts were largely cleared of snow. Thousands of tourists preferred to come back instead of proceeding to Murree city. Until Saturday late at night troops and civil administration both were working to clear the rest of the roads. The military also converted army-run schools into relief camps where they provided shelter and food for the tourists who had been rescued.
Advised by the Punjab province administration of Murree sent officials to distribute food and blankets to people while they were trapped in their snowed-in vehicles.
A preliminary investigation into death of people revealed many were died due to hypothermia while others may have died from carbon monoxide poisoning after running their car heaters for long periods of time.
In one instance, a husband and wife and their two children all died in their car. In another, four young friends died together, he said.
Located 28 miles (46 kilometers) north of the capital of Islamabad, Murree is a popular winter resort town that attracts well over a million tourists annually. Streets leading into the town are often blocked by snow in winter.