RAWALPINDI: Pakistan Army troops have reached snow-hit Murree with heavy machinery to assist the civil administration in rescue and relief operations following the deaths of at least 21 tourists who were left stranded in their vehicles.
According to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Army engineers have restored traffic on Jhika Gali and Gharyal Road. Army troops are engaged in evacuating stranded tourists in Murree, the ISPR said, adding that Army engineers have also arrived to reopen the main roads.
The Army has established four camps at Military College Murree, Jhika Gali, APS Kuldana and Station Supply Depot Sunny Bank, said the military’s media wing.
Army personnel are providing food and other necessary items, including safe shelter, to the tourists stranded in the area, said the ISPR.
Earlier today, the Punjab government declared Murree a calamity-hit region and sought help from the Pakistan Army.
All the routes in Murree were blocked for traffic after thousands of vehicles entered the city at a time when “unprecedented snowfall” took place, according to local administration.
In a video message, Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed said the crisis unfolded as Murree witnessed “a huge number of tourists after 15-20 years”.
Rasheed said the government was forced to close the road from Islamabad to Murree. “Islamabad and Rawalpindi’s commissioners, deputy commissioners, and police are carrying out rescue works,” he added.
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.
“At least s 1,000 vehicles were stuck on the roads since last 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 on foot; this is not the time to come to Murree,” Rasheed said.