Cold kills 21 stuck in cars in Pakistan

Qamar Zaman, dpaDeutsche Presse Agentur
Pakistani authorities have declared a state of emergency in Murree amid rescue operations.
Camera IconPakistani authorities have declared a state of emergency in Murree amid rescue operations. Credit: AP

At least 21 people have been killed near a Pakistani hill station after heavy snowfall left thousands stranded on blocked roads.

"At least 21 people including women and children have died," the rescue office from the Murree hill station said on Saturday as temperatures fell to minus 8C.

A police officer from the capital Islamabad was among the victims.

He was found dead in his car along with his wife and six children.

Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered an inquiry and was "putting in place strong regulation to ensure prevention of such tragedies," he said on Twitter.

Tens of thousands of tourists rushed to Murree, one of the most popular hill stations north of the capital, to enjoy the views and the snowfall that started late on Tuesday.

According to a government estimate, more than 100,000 vehicles were spotted in the area, where hotels were packed to capacity.

Visitors without a place to stay were left with no option than sleeping in their cars.

Social media was flooded with videos showing vehicles trapped in snowdrifts.

"Our teams are still trying to reach the trapped due to blocked roads. It is feared that the number of dead may increase," Rafaqat Zaman, a spokesperson for the district rescue office told DPA.

He said the snowstorm was "unusual" and roadblocks made it impossible for people to leave.

Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said that thousands of vehicles were still stuck on the roads and authorities had called in the armed forces to help with a rescue operation.

The authorities have declared a state of emergency in Murree and banned any more vehicles or tourists from entering the region.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry appealed to people not to visit the hill station for a few days saying it had become "impossible" for the administration to facilitate such large numbers of people.

Locals have been volunteering and providing food and blankets to the people who are trapped.

The Pakistan meteorological department predicts that the heavy snowfall in Murree will last until Sunday evening.

with AP

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