• Entry of vehicles into hill station banned
• Met Office predicts more rain till Sunday morning
RAWALPINDI/ISLAMABAD: A large number of tourists remained stranded in Murree and flights faced delays as rain continued to lash the federal capital and Rawalpindi for the fourth consecutive day on Friday.
Due to continuous snowfall and traffic congestion in Murree, the district administration imposed a ban on entry of more vehicles.
Snowfall, which began on Tuesday night, continued till Friday with regular intervals, attracting thousands of tourists. However, due to rush of visitors, many families ended up getting stranded on roads. It has been reported that over 100,000 vehicles entered the hill station.
On the other hand, a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) spokesman said the airline’s flight schedule had been affected by bad weather as three flights were diverted to Islamabad from Lahore. The diverted flights were PK-302 Karachi to Lahore, PK-264 Dubai to Lahore and PK-9760 from Jeddah to Lahore.
Three other flights - PK-303 from Lahore to Karachi, PK-9759 from Lahore to Jeddah and PK-189 from Lahore to Bahrain - were cancelled.
Besides PIA, another flight operated by a private airline and two by international airlines were also diverted to Islamabad from Lahore. However, flight operations from Islamabad continued uninterrupted.
As many as 447 passengers will be driven to Lahore via special buses, the spokesman said, adding that people were being facilitated round the clock through the PIA call centre. Passengers have been advised to check their flight schedule before leaving their homes.
Meanwhile, the district administration and local police have been asked to take measures to facilitate people facing inconvenience due to snowfall.
In a statement, Chief Traffic Officer Taimoor Khan said entry of vehicles into Murree had been banned from Friday night onwards and cars were being diverted from toll plazas and other entrances.
He said since snowfall started on Monday morning, more than 155,000 vehicles had entered Murree and 135,000 had so far left.
A district administration official said massive traffic jams were seen on two main roads – old Rawalpindi-Murree Road and Murree Expressway.
“The road for traffic coming from Islamabad has been closed due to heavy snowfall near Chitta Mor while on Expressway, traffic cannot move beyond Dhana Stop,” the official said, adding that tourists’ complaints about overcharging of parking fees would also be solved.
“There was non-stop snowfall till noon today; the situation on routes in the Galyat region is even worse as a lot of snow was seen on Murree-Abbottabad Road,” the official said, adding that Friday’s snow had further added to people’s difficulties.
Another officer said the highway department had been throwing salt on the roads to make snow melt but to no avail.
On the other hand, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Traffic Ajmal Satti, in his video message, said roads had become extremely slippery.
He said additional police along with the assistant superintendent of police and assistant commissioner were present on the field, and they were trying to help people reach their destinations.
DSP Satti requested motorists to avoid wrong parking and double lanes.
Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Ahmad Khan Buzdar said: “Tourists should not face any difficulty while travelling to Murree. They should remain informed about the traffic situation through social media.” Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed has also appealed to people to refrain from visiting Murree and Galyat to avoid inconvenience.
According to the Met Office, 20mm rain was recorded at Saidpur, Zero Point and Golra, 16mm at Bokra and 1mm at Airport in Islamabad until 6pm on Friday. In Rawalpindi, Chaklala received 19mm rain and Shamsabad, 20mm.
Murree received an additional four inches of snow, 13 inches in Kalam, one inch in Malam Jabba and traces in Astore.
According to a Met Office official, a strong westerly wave was affecting upper parts of the country and was likely to persist till Sunday morning.
More rain with snowfall over the hills is expected in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Islamabad, upper/central Punjab, Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir. Heavy rain and a hailstorm has been predicted in isolated places during the period.
Civic and social life came to a standstill in Taxila and Wah Cantonment following back-to-back spells of rain that started on Monday morning and continued intermittently till Friday.
Streets and roads were flooded and all utility services including gas, power, water and telecommunication remained disrupted.
Rainwater accumulated in low-lying areas including Wahdat Colony, Macharr Colony, Banni Mohallah, Nawababad, Ismailabad, Rehbar Colony, Touheedabad, Pind Gondal, Jameelabad, new Gulistan Colony, Ahmednagar and Asifabad.
People complained about fallen electricity wires, collapse of transformers and faults in distribution lines.
Drivers of broken-down vehicles were seen in several places, especially G.T. Road, Hattar Road and Khanpur Road,looking for mechanics or people to push their vehicles.
Residents of rural areas complained about unavailability of gas cylinders, firewood and even coal to cook food. — Additional reporting by Amjad Iqbal
Published in Dawn, January 8th, 2022