Learning from Murree tragedy, district admin finalises fresh contingency plan

Published January 15, 2022
Police personnel check identity cards of people on board vehicles near the Satra Meel toll plaza on Friday as only residents of Murree and Galiyat are permitted to proceed further. — Online
Police personnel check identity cards of people on board vehicles near the Satra Meel toll plaza on Friday as only residents of Murree and Galiyat are permitted to proceed further. — Online

• Rain, snow spell expected from Tuesday
• Probe committee expected to submit report to CM by Sunday
• Traders to protest against curtailing of commercial activities in hill station

RAWALPINDI: As the committee formed to probe the Murree tragedy returned to Islamabad on Friday after carrying out its investigation, it seems that the Rawalpindi administration has learned something from the incidents of last weekend.

The administration of Rawalpindi district has finalised a fresh contingency plan ahead of the upcoming rain and snow that has been forecast in hilly areas from Tuesday, Jan 18, and Thursday, Jan 20.

The Met Office has asked all departments concerned to make appropriate arrangements beforehand.

As per the new plan, the additional deputy commissioner and three assistant commissioners have been deployed in Murree to avoid another tragedy.

In addition, the probe committee, which is expected to submit its report to Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar on Jan 16, is now camped out at the Punjab House in Islamabad.

On the other hand, local traders are up in arms as all commercial activities in the hill station have been at a standstill over the past week.

Traders, labourers, transporters and others are expected to hold a demonstration on Murree Expressway on Saturday (today) to press the district administration to open up roads and allow business activity to resume.

Probe committee

The committee is led by Punjab Additional Chief Secretary Zafar Nasarullah with Punjab Food Secretary Ali Sarfraz, Agriculture Secretary Asad Gillani and Additional Inspector General of Police Farooq Mazhar as members.

The committee members had been in Murree for the last couple of days where they quizzed and collected records from different departments, including the district administration, police and Rescue 1122.

A senior Punjab government official told Dawn that Rawalpindi Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Ali had appeared before the committee and recorded his statement on Friday.

However, when contacted, the deputy commissioner refrained from commenting, saying the committee had barred him from speaking to the media until the inquiry report was completed.

The official said the committee had also recorded statements of Commissioner Syed Gulzar Hussain Shah and Regional Police Officer Ishfaq Ahmad.

Contingency plan

“The district administration, police and other provincial departments have learned from the January 8 incident and have made contingency plans on the Met Office forecast of another spell, starting from Jan 18,” the official told Dawn.

“This shows that such a plan was not prepared on the basis of the Jan 5 forecast, which resulted in the death of 22 people,” he said.

According to the Met Office, light to moderate snowfall is expected in Murree, Galiyat, Kaghan, Naran, Chitral, Dir, Swat, Kohistan, Astore, Hunza, Gilgit, Neelum Valley, Bagh and Haveli districts from Tuesday (night) to Thursday.

On the other hand, there is a chance that landslides may occur in vulnerable areas of Dir, Malakand, Swat, Kohistan, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir on Tuesday or Wednesday.

The prevailing dense fog is, however, likely to subside as a result of the rain.

Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Ali on Friday chaired a meeting to review arrangements made for the expected spell of rain and snowfall in the coming weeks.

“We can reduce the rate of damage through disaster management. Two control rooms will be set up during snowfall spell, which will be active 24 hours a day to listen to the complaints of citizens and ensure that they are provided with required assistance as well as complete guidance,” the deputy commissioner said.

The control room will be set up at the DC office, Rawalpindi and the assistant commissioner’s office, Murree. Focal persons from all departments concerned will perform their duties there,” he said, adding that an additional deputy commissioner and three assistant commissioners (ACs) including ACs Murree and Kahuta will be stationed there.

According to the new plan, much of the focus will be on snow removal and traffic management. Entry in the hill station will be regulated which means not more 8,000 vehicles will be allowed to enter.

He directed all government departments to cooperate fully with rescue personnel in such a situation, especially the health department, in order to deal with an emergency.

City Police Officer Sajid Kiani and officials of Rescue 1122, Municipal Corporation, Civil Defence and other relevant departments attended the meeting.

Published in Dawn, January 15th, 2022

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