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Major roads in Murree cleared as rescue work underway



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MURREE:After two freezing and terrifying nights, the sun is finally out in Murree today (Sunday). The people of the hill station woke up to a clear sky and soaked some healing sunshine.

The rescue operation, which was suspended earlier after night fell, has resumed. Officials have confirmed that 22 people stuck in cars froze to death during the blizzard on January 7.

The deceased include mothers, young children, and friends, who were visiting Murree from areas such as Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Lahore, Gujranwala, and Karachi. The bodies are being sent back home.

Entry into the hill station is still banned. Only emergency and rescue vehicles have been allowed. On Saturday, the government imposed a restriction on the entry of tourists into Shogran, Naran, and Kaghan as well.

According to the notification from the office of Deputy Commissioner Mansehra, Tehsil Balakot, Naran, Kaghan and Shogran have been closed for all kinds of traffic due to the extreme weather conditions.

Rescue updates

Major roads in Murree cleared, snowfall stops

Meanwhile, personnel of the Pakistan Army, FWO, and NDMA are removing snow from main roads from cranes and other heavy machinery. They said 90% of the roads, Bara Kahu to Murree, Nathia Gali to Kuldana, Gika Gali, and Mall Road, have been cleared.

Nearly 371 tourists stranded in cars have been rescued and moved to camps and rest houses. They are being provided food, blankets, warm clothes, and other necessities.

According to the NDMA Chairperson Lt-General Akhtar Nawaz, 600 to 700 vehicles have been evacuated. Over 5,000 cars have, on the other hand, left Murree. In an interview with SAMAA TV, he said that except for Bariyan, NathiaGali, and Abbottabad, all the roads have been cleared. “The situation is slowly coming back to normal.”

Later on Saturday, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar arrived in Murree via a helicopter. He will tour the hill station and be briefed on the rescue operation.

The Met Office had, earlier, said that the weather in Murree will get better by Sunday afternoon and snowfall will stop which will help the rescue operations.

However, as the snow melts, expressways and highways heading to the hill station will become slippery increasing the chances of road accidents.

Fateful Friday night

Murree was crowded this week after tourists headed there to witness an unusual snowfall. Last night, the government imposed a ban on the entry of tourists in the hill station and the Galiyat region. They were not allowed to go beyond Satra Meel Toll Plaza, except in the case of extreme emergency.

Tourists tried to reach Murree by two roads leading from Rawalpindi — the old Rawalpindi-Murree Road and the Murree Expressway — and one from Abbottabad.

Murree was a desolate sight of fallen trees, stranded cars, and bone-chilling cold. Photos: Online

Reports of delays on all roads leading to Murree surfaced Friday evening. The deaths were reported Saturday morning and first confirmed by Sheikh Rasheed.

Rasheed said 23,000 cars were brought back on Saturday, while an operation was underway to rescue another 1,000 cars trapped in the snow. Heavy machinery has been called in to clear the roads as well, he said.

According to reports, this week, nearly 140,000 vehicles entered Murree. Hundreds of tourists spent Friday night on the roads. Local residents were out on the roads distributing warm clothes, blankets, and food to stranded tourists. However, help could not reach everyone and people began to die as blizzards buried their cars under several feet of snow.

The snowstorm was so severe that the government on Saturday sought “undeclared” help from the military and civil-armed forces to evacuate the tourists from the area as well. Consequently, Murree was declared calamity hit.

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