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Heavy Snow Kills 21 at Murree Hill Station in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — No less than 21 individuals died on Saturday when their vehicles turned caught on snow-covered roads resulting in a well-liked vacationer city simply exterior Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital.

Troopers rescued individuals from at the least 24,000 autos stranded by heavy snow close to the hill station city of Murree, officers mentioned. Different snowbound drivers and their passengers got blankets and meals.

“The place equipment can’t attain, troops have been moved and they’re clearing visitors and opening roads,” learn a press release by the Pakistani army.

Rescue officers mentioned the victims had been discovered useless of their autos, some probably dying of carbon monoxide poisoning in a single day. The useless included a household of 4 daughters and two sons, all underneath 15 years of age.

The heavy snowfall in Murree and Pakistan’s northern areas was predicted by the nation’s meteorological division no later than Jan. 5, and got here as a part of a broader wave of chilly climate affecting the area, together with the Indian aspect of the Himalayas.

Officers blamed the catastrophe on giant numbers of vacationers who failed to contemplate climate forecasts. However critics of the federal government mentioned the native authorities had been ill-equipped to deal with the annual inflow and underprepared to take care of emergency conditions.

Murree, a country mountainside city 21 miles northeast of Islamabad, is a well-liked vacationer vacation spot that pulls lots of of hundreds of tourists yearly, and Prime Minister Imran Khan has personally promoted tourism to the realm. A number of days in the past, Fawad Chaudhry, the Pakistani data minister, praised the heavy influx of vacationers, saying 100,000 autos had entered Murree.

However on Saturday, Mr. Chaudhry was issuing pleas for individuals to cancel their journey plans because it had develop into inconceivable for native officers to cater to such giant numbers of individuals. And as catastrophe hit, the prime minister gave the impression to be blaming the vacationers for negligence.

“Unprecedented snowfall & rush of ppl continuing with out checking climate situations caught district admin unprepared,” Mr. Khan said on Twitter.

Critics say regardless of Murree’s proximity to the nation’s capital, and regardless of the predictable nature of the heavy vacationer move yearly, the native authorities are sometimes overwhelmed by the massive variety of guests.

“For a tragedy like this to occur on the roads of the nation’s most frequented hill station is appalling,” mentioned Sarah N. Ahmad, an city coverage specialist who based City Innovation, a analysis and advocacy group based mostly in Lahore. “These deaths had been completely avoidable and the federal government is answerable to the individuals for this oversight.”

Heavy snowfall on the Indian aspect blocked roads and disrupted transport within the Kashmir area in addition to within the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh.

Flights had been repeatedly canceled in Srinagar, the capital metropolis of Indian-administered Kashmir, the place tourists are flocking to the snow and skiing.

There have been additionally experiences of snow blocking roads between Srinagar and Ladakh, a border area on the heart of latest army tensions between India and China. Tens of hundreds of Indian and Chinese language troops stay in excessive altitudes and freezing temperatures for a second winter after skirmishes between the 2 international locations’ militaries in the summertime of 2020.

Mujib Mashal contributed reporting from New Delhi, India.

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