CHITRAL: Hundreds of Chitral-bound women and children, who were stranded on the Dir side of Lowari tunnel, took refuge in the newly constructed container shelter amid continued snowfall in the area.
Talking to Dawn here on Sunday, a number of passengers said that more than 100 vehicles were in the queue, waiting for opening of the tunnel. They said that the women and the children were shifted to the waiting rooms and the men waited inside their vehicles, braving the intense cold winds.
Mohammad Din, a resident of Drosh, said that he was travelling along with his family and found the cozy rooms of the waiting shelter an ideal place of solace for his family members, who were shivering with cold while disembarking from the vehicle.
He said that although he had to pass the time inside his vehicle yet he felt relieved about his family members as they were quite safe in the shelter. The situation was same for others, who were travelling with women and children.
He said that the availability of toilets in the shelter room was the most sought-after facility.
The container shelter was constructed by Sarhad Rural Support Programme (SRSP) at a cost of Rs2.7 million on the demand of the people. It was inaugurated two weeks ago.
With the closure of Lowari Top due to heavy snowfall in the winter, the unfinished Lowari Tunnel gives a passage to the passengers to travel to and from Chitral to other parts of the country which is opened for the public only on Saturdays and Sundays.
The vehicles coming to Chitral have to wait for their turn on the south portal of the tunnel as the convoy of vehicles going from Chitral is allowed first to pass through it.
Naeemul Haq of Broze village recalled that last year he saw many women and children fainted while waiting on the Dir side but the waiting shelter this year was a great facility. “The wailing of the women and children are still reverberating in my ears in this same place last year when the waiting extended longer,” he said.
The passengers, however, he said, felt the need of addition of rooms in the waiting shelter to accommodate more people including men and opening of a canteen where tea and edible could be available.
The passengers complained that National Highway Authority (NHA) officers gratuitously delayed the opening of the tunnel for the passengers on Thursday by four hours with no tangible reasons.
Chitral Deputy Commissioner Aminul Haq, when contacted, said that the matter would be taken with the high-ups while he deputed a magistrate there to keep himself informed of the situation.
He said that delay on Saturday was caused owing to clearance of the approach roads leading to the tunnel on both sides while it was opened in the scheduled time on Sunday.
Published in Dawn January 26th , 2015