Army rescues stranded tourists


—Snow removed from major roads

—Traffic normalized

—Over 500 families rescued, taken to shelters

—Initial report suggests absence of machinery to remove snow led to enormous traffic jam

By Asghar Ali Mubarak

MURREE: All main roads of calamity-hit Murree hill station have been cleared for all types of traffic including Kuldana-Barian Road, whereas, efforts for evacuating stranded tourists are also underway, the military’s media wing said Sunday.

The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement that all main communication arteries of Murree have been cleared for all types of the move including Kuldana-Barian Road.

“After clearance of main roads, army engineers are now focusing road links.” Relief camps and medical facilitates are fully operating and army transport is plying for moving of stranded tourists to Rawalpindi and Islamabad, ISPR added.

Moreover, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) personnel are actively taking part in ongoing rescue and relief operations in Murree.

The air force officials have shifted more than 100 stranded tourists including women and children at the PAF Base Kalabagh and Lower Topa Base.

Earlier in the day, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Chairman Lieutenant General Akhtar Nawaz said all stranded tourists have been shifted to safer places from the calamity-hit area Murree.

The chairman NDMA said 371 tourists have been shifted to the relief camps set up by the Pakistan Army before the night.

Lieutenant-General Akhtar Nawaz said Pakistan Army worked together with the civil administration in the evacuation operation. Replying to a query, he said almost 90 per cent of roads in Murree have been reopened for traffic that was blocked due to heavy snowfall.

Relief work is underway at Barian Road and road heading towards Abbottabad, he added. He said the Control Room, under the supervision of Commissioner Rawalpindi, has also been established at Murree to provide assistance to stranded tourists.

Lieutenant-General Akhtar Nawaz Satti said that the emerging situation is very challenging and the NDMA is taking all possible steps to normalize the situation.

Murree tragedy: At least 22 tourists who were stranded in their vehicles due to heavy snowfall died of the extreme weather in Murree on Friday night.

According to a report on the Murree tragedy presented to Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar by the Rawalpindi administration, more than 100,000 vehicles entered Murree over the past three days. 12,000 of them exited the hill station while the rest got stuck.

The report said the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) had not alerted the district administration about the unprecedented snowfall that the hilly area was to receive.

The death toll has soared to 22 while a rescue and evacuation operation is underway in the hilly area. The deceased tourists hailed from Karachi, Lahore, Mardan and other cities.

Murree received five feet of snowfall, it said, adding the roads leading to the hill station were closed on the night of Jan 6 with people advised to avoid travelling to the area yet tourists in the large number reached there.