‘Murree has seen more snow in past but mismanagement caused tragedy’

Published January 10, 2022
People stand next to cars stuck under fallen trees on a snowy road, in Murree on Jan 8. — Reuters
People stand next to cars stuck under fallen trees on a snowy road, in Murree on Jan 8. — Reuters

ISLAMABAD: Had the government departments and local administration acted promptly on Friday, we would not have witnessed a tragedy of this scale in Murree.

“It was a complete failure of the government and it was complete mismanagement as despite warnings from Met Office and continuous snowfall nobody bothered to check the status of the tourists in the hill station,” said Qari Abdul Wajid Abbasi while leading a group of volunteers in rescue activities.

Over 20 people, including children, lost their lives in stranded cars in the area on Friday night.

Mr Abbasi told Dawn that if the stranded passengers could be rescued on Saturday after the issue was highlighted, why no action was taken on Friday night.

In reply to a question, he said he came to know about the tragedy through social media.

“When I came to know that people have died in stranded cars, I contacted friends to join me in the rescue operation.”

He added: “I formed a group of volunteers and purchased biscuits and dry fruits and moved from Bhurban to Jikka Gali and Kuldana for evacuating the trapped cars.”

The volunteers reached Kuldana from Jikka Gali on foot and helped a number of people there.

“By the time we reached there, many families had already been rescued but we helped visitors in evacuating their cars.”

The 45-year-old Qari said in the past the area had received more snowfall but this year it was mismanagement that led to the tragedy.

“I still remember in early 2000s Murree witnessed more snowfall than this year. That time I reached my house from Jikka Gali on foot.”

Mr Abbasi appreciated local people for taking part in the rescue operation actively besides offering their houses, food etc., to the visitors.

“A large number of locals in various areas took part in the rescue operation. They also offered food and shelter to the visitors,” he said and added that some hotel owners on Saturday also offered food and free shelters to the visitors.

However, at the same time, some hotel owners exploited the situation and charged more than Rs20,000 rent per room per night which was shameful, he added.

He also criticised so-called “helpers” of Murree who evacuated the trapped cars after getting thousands of rupees from the owners.

“Greedy people equipped with chains and other tools helped the trapped people only after striking a deal with them. Such people are a blot on the face of the hospitable people of Murree as they charged Rs5,000 to Rs20,000 for pushing trapped cars out of snow,” he said.

Despite the forecast of heavy snowfall in Murree and Galiyat, the local administration did not take any precautionary measures until Friday. They allowed more than 100,000 vehicles to enter Murree during the four-day spell of snow that resulted in congestion in the area.

On the other hand, the government departments did not act to rescue trapped people on Friday night that resulted in the death of more than 20 visitors in their cars.

However, on Saturday, the administration acted promptly and started an operation rescue.

Published in Dawn, January 10th, 2022

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