Officials said yesterday that at least 21 people died below freezing when tens of thousands of visitors saw unusually heavy snowfall in a hill town in Pakistan, causing heavy traffic jams.
Police reported that at least eight people were frozen dead in the car, but it’s immediately clear if others may have been suffocated after inhaling the exhaust from a snow-covered car. It wasn’t.
Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid said the army had mobilized to clear the road and rescue thousands of people still trapped near Marie, about 70 kilometers northeast of the capital Islamabad.
A video shared on social media showed that the car was stuffed from bumper to bumper and the roof was covered with 1 meter (3 feet) of snow.
“Heavy snow caused traffic jams and road closures,” tourist Babar Khan, who had been stuck for hours, told AFP on the phone.
“Roads were closed due to fallen trees in many places.”
Pakistan’s National Weather Forecast Center website said heavy snowfall is expected in the region until this afternoon, but Fawad Chaudhley, the intelligence minister, broke “decades” of weather records in the last 48 hours. Said it was done.
For days, Pakistan’s social media has featured photos and videos of people playing in the snow around Marie, a picturesque resort town built by the British in the 19th century as a colonial sanatorium. It was full. The Prime Minister’s Office in Punjab said the area was declared a “disaster area” and urged people to stay away.
Prime Minister Imran Khan said he was shocked and upset by the tragedy.
“Unprecedented snowfall and a surge in ppl going on without checking weather conditions made district managers unprepared,” he tweeted.
“To ensure the prevention of such tragedy, we ordered an investigation and introduced strong regulations.” Authorities warned last weekend that too many cars were about to enter Marie, but it was the capital. I couldn’t discourage the hordes of day trippers from.
“It faces serious problems not only for tourists, but also for locals,” another stranded visitor, Usman Abbasi, told AFP.
“The gas cylinders are gone and drinking water is not available in most areas. The water pipes are damaged due to freezing or severe cold.”
Pakistan’s military spokesman said those still stuck in Marie would be transferred to five already established military rescue camps.
Rescue operations continue to operate heavy equipment “without pausing,” he added, “where the machinery is out of reach, troops are moving, clearing traffic, and opening roads.”
At an altitude of 2,300 meters, the town of about 30,000 people nestles alongside steep hills and valleys, with narrow roads that are often clogged even on sunny days.
According to Sheikh Rashid, the inhabitants protected the people trapped in the town and provided blankets and food to those within reach in the suburbs.
Authorities said schools and government buildings have accepted people who can reach the town from clogged roads.
Pakistan’s rescue team, Rescue 1122, has released a list of 21 names who said they had been confirmed dead.
It included a policeman, his wife, and their six children.
Hasaan Khawar, a spokesman for the Punjab state government, said he was frozen dead in a snow-covered car.
Rescue 1122 said another family of five was also among the dead.
http://www.gulf-times.com/story/707650/Pakistani-tourists-freeze-to-death-in-snow-trapped Pakistani tourists freeze to death in snow-covered cars