ISLAMABAD: The Punjab government declared Murree a calamity-hit region and sought help from the Pakistan Army after at least 21 tourists died in their vehicles.
All the routes in Murree were blocked after thousands of vehicles entered the city, leaving the tourists helpless on the roads.
In a video message, Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Saturday said Murree had “seen a huge number of tourists after 15-20 years”, and due to that, a crisis took place.
Rasheed said the government was forced to close the road from Islamabad to Murree. “Islamabad and Rawalpindi’s commissioners, deputy commissioners, police, are carrying out rescue works.”
The interior minister said five platoons of the Pakistan Army have been called in for rescue efforts, while Rangers and Frontier Corps will be deployed on an emergency basis.
“As many as 1,000 vehicles have been stuck since night […] some have been evacuated; 19-20 deaths took place in cars. The locals provided food and blankets to the stranded people.”
The interior minister said the authorities would evacuate 1,000 vehicles by today evening, while the roads would remain closed to Murree till tomorrow 9pm.
“We have also decided to ban tourists who are planning on coming to Murree by walk; this is not the time to come to Murree,” Rasheed said.
According to the local administration, rain and blizzards are forecast tonight in and around Murree, with thunderstorms at a speed of 50-90 kmph and heavy snowfall.
The administration has warned the citizens not to leave their homes in severe weather or turn to Murree as severe weather conditions are likely to continue till late at night.
Tourists throng to Murree
For the last two days, continuous snowfall has been taking place in Murree, and with that, hundreds of thousands of tourists are heading towards the town.
Geo News, citing officials, reported that an estimated 125,000 vehicles have entered the city so far, due to which severe traffic jam was witnessed on the roads. In view of the emergency situation, the administration has decided to close all the roads leading to Murree.
Rawalpindi deputy commissioner has confirmed that that the roads leading to the tourist site has been blocked at Bhara Kahu tool plaza to deal with the situation.
Thousands of tourists, including women and children, have been trapped on the roads in the area since last night. Officials of the traffic police, however, were making their efforts to restore the flow of traffic on the roads.
The tourists have demanded of the government to help evacuate them from the area.
Taking to Twitter, Rawalpindi deputy commissioner said, “Around 23000 vehicles have been evacuated safely from Murree. Around 1000 are still stranded.”
He maintained that the district admin is working round the clock to evacuate the remaining vehicles safely.
Govt appeals to postpone plans for a few days
Earlier, Sheikh Rasheed had appealed to the tourists, especially families, to refrain from travelling to Murree and Galyat.
He had maintained that the tourists will not be allowed to go 17 Mile Interchange. However, citizens with an extreme emergency will be granted permission to travel to Murree and Galyat.
Similarly, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said that a large number of vehicles were heading towards Murree and other hilly areas, making it impossible for the local administration to facilitate them.
He urged the people to postpone their plan for a few days.