By Hamza Ameer
Murree (Pakistan), January 9 (IANS): Pakistan’s most beloved tourist spot, Murree at an altitude of 2,291 meters, has become the worst nightmare for thousands of tourists, who have traveled to the mountain resort only to find themselves in the clouds Gloomy from a deadly snowstorm.
It was the snowy season in Murree that drew hundreds of thousands of tourists to begin their journey to the heart of the country, unaware that their trip would become their most dreaded experience.
The past 48 hours have seen a massive snow shower in Murree and the surrounding mountainous regions, stranding hundreds of thousands of vehicles on the roads, left at the mercy of the icy hands of the blizzard and unforeseen fate.
As authorities struggled to clear roads filled with at least 4 feet of snow, thousands of tourists, stranded in traffic jams, spent the night in their cars.
Many kept their cars’ engines started and the radiators on to protect themselves from the freezing snow that was building up outside.
Three best friends – Sohail Khan, Asad and Bilal, who gathered to take a walk in Murree and enjoy the snowfall, were among the hapless travelers, whose trip claimed their lives.
Sohail, Asad and Bilal found themselves stranded in traffic and the snowy road leading to Murree. They left their car’s engine on for the heat to work. However, with snowfall accumulating all around their car, it choked out the muffler, flowing carbon monoxide back into the car, stunning all three of them and later becoming the reason for their deaths.
Residents, who saw them unconscious in the car, discovered the three. But after the car doors opened, all three of them died of suffocation.
Another family of eight, including women and young children, were also among the 22 other unfortunate victims who were found dead in their cars. The unhappy family included Islamabad police officer ASI Naveed Iqbal, his 43-year-old wife and at least six children (four daughters and two sons).
The snowstorm in Murree broke records for the past 30 years. Rescue authorities, police and military personnel were seen reaching out to stranded cars and tourists, moving them to safer locations, as machines continued to work to clear the thick snow from the roads .
Although Murree is a hot spot for tourists, it has a parking capacity of at least 4,000 vehicles. However, the first wave of snow drew a massive amount of tourists to move towards Murree. It was estimated that at least 150,000 vehicles had already entered Murree while thousands more were stranded on the roads.
The deaths of at least 22 innocent lives, which left their homes on the move but ended in tragedy, speaks volumes about the lack of infrastructure at the country’s most popular tourist spot.
Locals questioned the disaster response capabilities of the government led by Imran Khan, who they say has promoted tourism but failed to ensure adequate infrastructure for the safety of tourists.