MANSEHRA/PESHAWAR: A spell of heavy snowfall paralysed Naran Valley, one of the popular tourist spots in the country, on Sunday. Over 1,000 tourists were stranded in the valley and long lines of cars and other vehicles were there on roads blocked by piles of snow.
A miner was killed when 15 mine workers were hit by an avalanche in Bassar area of Kaghan.
Heavy rain and snowfall also lashed other regions of Mansehra district and upper parts of Hazara division.
Rain and snowfall were also reported from other parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and adjacent tribal areas which brought down the mercury level and heralded the onset of early winter.
The Peshawar Met office has forecast more rain and snow. Abbottabad, Balakot and Kohat received 52mm each of rain and Peshawar 21mm on Saturday and Sunday.
Over 1,000 tourists stranded, roads blocked
Heavy downpour and snowfall were also reported in Malakand division, Hunza, Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir.
Life was almost at a standstill in Naran. Mustafa, a police officer, told Dawn on phone that over two feet of snow had accumulated on roads and vehicles were unable to move.
He said the stranded tourists had been provided shelter by local people and announcements were made from mosques appealing to owners of hotels to provide free accommodation to them.
Advocate Babar Khan Yousafzai, one of the people stranded in Naran, said he and his companions had run out of fuel and there was no electricity in the area. He said the local hotel association had provided free accommodation to tourists. According to him, 500 to 600 vehicles were stuck on roads.
“We are worried about our children because there is no heating arrangement in rooms,” said Mr Yousafzai, who is a regular traveller to northern areas.
“Hoteliers must be praised for providing accommodation to the stranded tourists; otherwise we have not yet seen any official of local administration. People left their vehicles on roads and rushed to the hotels,” he added.
An official of the district administration said that over 1,000 tourists in about 500 cars and other vehicles were stranded after the Kaghan-Battakundi section of Mansehra-Naran-Jalkhad road was blocked by a landslide triggered by continuous rain and snowfall.
Deputy Commissioner Amer Khattak said heavy machinery had been sent to the area to remove snow. He said Chief Minister Pervez Khattak had offered a helicopter to airlift tourists from the valley.
Officials said the blocked portion of the main road would soon be opened. The National Highway Authority has sent machinery to expedite work.
Upper parts of Shangla district received first snowfall of the season while rains hit low altitude areas.
Temperature in Peshawar and adjoining areas suddenly dropped by several degrees, forcing people to wear warm clothes. The minimum temperature recorded in the city was 15 degrees Celsius which, according to the Met office, would decline further.
PM’S DIRECTIVE: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has directed the authorities concerned to ensure safe evacuation of the tourists stranded in various areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
According to PPI, the prime minister directed the interior secretary to contact the KP chief secretary to help the stranded people.
Published in Dawn, October 26th, 2015