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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Pakistan snow: Hundreds rescued from vehicles in deadly blizzard


A tourist trapped in her car for hours by unprecedented snowfall in Pakistan has described how she “saw death” in front of her as she waited for help.

Samina was among the thousands who flocked to the hilltop town of Murree to witness the winter snowfall.

However, a blizzard on Friday knocked down trees and clogged roads leading into and out of the town just north of the capital.

At least 22 people died, including two large families, after 1,000 vehicles became stranded.

Samina told the BBC that she left her home at 16:00 local time to travel to Murree, but she soon found herself trapped in the snow. Images and videos shared on social media showed cars stranded bumper to bumper, with snow piled on their roofs.

“I could see death right in front of me,” Samina explained. “It was as if snow peaks were being built around our car… I can’t put into words what I was feeling.

“We were praying to God that He would help us and that we would not perish in a snowstorm.”

The blizzard dumped up to 1.5m (5ft) of snow in just a few hours, according to Tariq Ullah, an official in the nearby town of Nathiagali.

“It was unprecedented,” he said, according to the AFP news agency. “There were high winds, downed trees, and avalanches.” “Everyone around me was terrified.”

Samina was finally rescued at 10:00 a.m. the next morning, spending the night in one of the resort town’s shelters, which are located 2,300 metres (7,500 feet) above sea level.

However, ten children, as well as two families of five and eight, were among those killed, according to emergency services.

Authorities said eight people died from exposure, while asphyxiation from inhaling fumes while attempting to stay warm in their vehicles has been suggested as a possible cause for the others.

Questions are now being raised about how this could have happened.

“We didn’t get any type of alert from society, the government, Google, the news, or the weather,” Duaa Kashif Ali, an Islamabad tourist, told AFP.

She and 13 other family members and friends got out of their cars and walked about a mile (1.5 kilometres) to a guesthouse where they found shelter.

According to BBC’s Farhat Javed, who is in Murree, the town has enough parking for about 5,000 cars. On Friday, however, 100,000 visitors were allowed in, causing a massive traffic jam as they struggled through the deep snow.

Vehicles were abandoned on the roads, and emergency workers, who were alerted to the problem on Friday morning, told the BBC that traffic jams slowed their response.

The Punjab provincial government stated that a thorough investigation would be conducted to determine whether there was a failure to act on severe weather warnings.

“A high-level investigation will be launched, and if there is any negligence, action will be taken against all those involved,” said spokesman Hasaan Khawar.

However, this will not happen until the roads to Murree, which was built by the British in the nineteenth century as a medical base for its colonial troops, are cleared.

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