Two boys, who work as loaders, try to keep themselves warm in their jackets as they wait in the rain for buyers at the I-11 Fruit and Vegetable Market in Islamabad on Monday. — Photo by Tanveer Shahzad
Two boys, who work as loaders, try to keep themselves warm in their jackets as they wait in the rain for buyers at the I-11 Fruit and Vegetable Market in Islamabad on Monday. — Photo by Tanveer Shahzad

RAWALPINDI/ISLAMABAD: Five teachers and 30 schoolchildren trapped in a school in Ayub Colony on Bostan Khan Road were evacuated by Rescue 1122 staff on Monday after water from the overflowing nullah closeby entered the institution.

The students and teachers were trapped in the sewage which accumulated on the premises of Al-Fajar School after the water level in the nullah rose up to two feet in the street and in the school.

The teachers made an emergency call, in response to which rescue staff began evacuating the students and staff.

Rainwater also accumulated on the Committee Chowk underpass and began pouring down from the elevated metro bus track on Monday as well.

However, Water and Sanitation Agency officials drained the water using machines and cleared the road.

However, flight operations continued as normal at the Islamabad International Airport (IIA) despite rain in the twin cities, although three flights to Quetta were cancelled due to extreme weather there.

A spokesperson for Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) said PIA flights PK-326 and 325 between Islamabad and Quetta were cancelled due to extreme weather in Quetta.

He said flight operations would be restored as soon as the weather clears.

Meanwhile, a strong westerly wave affecting northern and central parts of the country brought widespread rain to Potohar region besides parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir on Monday.

The rainfall started after midnight on Monday, with Islamabad receiving around 47 millimetres of rain and Rawalpindi 60mm.

The lowest temperature in the twin cities was 7°C and the highest was 8°C because of the cloudy skies that accompanied the continuous rainfall. But the temperature felt like 1°C in Islamabad because of zero and sub-zero temperatures in Murree.

A Met official said the severe cold on Monday was not just because of the rainfall but also due to the existing system coming from the north.

The dense cloud formation descending from southern Siberia has covered Kashmir, GB, parts of Afghanistan and western China, but soft warm winds are penetrating from the southeast which will push the clouds northwards in the coming days.

The weather will be dry and ranging from cold to very cold until Jan 18, but partly cloudy weather with light rain and snow over the hills expected in GB.

Since dry weather is expected in most of the country, fog may blanket the plains of Punjab and Sindh in the morning and at night.

As the northern system pushes on, a fresh spell of rain is expected from Jan 18 in the twin cities, and rain with snow over the hills is expected in KP, northern and central Punjab, Quetta, Pishin, Zhob, Ziarat, Qila Abdullah, GB and Kashmir.

The current system brought widespread rain in all the districts of Balochistan, KP, Punjab, GB and Kashmir with snow recorded in Malam Jabba, Kalam, Parachinar, Bagrot, Skardu, Hunza, Astore, Pattan, Chilas and Murree.

Snowfall, traffic jams in Murree

Heavy snowfall has occurred in Murree and its adjoining areas, continuing until this report was filed, and more than 30,000 vehicles have reportedly entered the hill resort to enjoy the weather.

Traffic police sources said more than 30,000 vehicles have already entered Murree and more are expected. Traffic jams have been witnessed on various roads, including from Jika Gali to View Forth Road and Kuldanna Road, due to the shortage of parking spaces.

Traffic police spokesperson Muzamal Hussain said around 5,000 tourists were assisted by traffic wardens deployed in large numbers on Murree’s roads.

Due to thousands of cars moving and traffic jams on the roads, it is difficult for road clearing machines to move easily and dozens of vehicles are unable to move due to slippery roads in various places, he added.

He said that ice on the roads at night also makes the roads very slippery. It is almost impossible for vehicles to move, he said, and highway staff throw salt on the roads to make them less slippery. He appealed to tourists to follow traffic rules and to avoid travelling to Murree at night.

The City Traffic Police has issued a travel advisory for people heading to Murree in which motorists are urged to ensure the air pressure in their tyres is low and their fuel tanks are full.

A traffic police spokesperson said a comprehensive plan has been made to facilitate tourists heading to Murree for the snow. Senior traffic officials have been deployed to monitor traffic arrangements on the hill station to ensure traffic flows smoothly during the snowfall.

An emergency helpline has been introduced for tourists, and the number of traffic wardens has been increased as well. Several points have also been designated for parking vehicles. Main roads, including Kashmir Point, Mall Road and Guldana Road have been closed to two-way traffic.

“More than nine inches of snow has already been measured by the Met Office observatory in Murree,” Meteorology Assistant Raja Rasib told Dawn.

Snowfall will continue till Tuesday morning and weather will be clear by Tuesday night, Meteorologist Mohammad Ayaz.

Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2020