MUZAFFARABAD: At least 200 tourists, including women and children, were safely evacuated from a high altitude tourist resort on the outskirts of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) capital on Thursday evening after they were stuck in the snow there, an official said.

Divisional commissioner Masoodur Rehman told Dawn that since the Met office had predicted rain and snow on Thursday, hundreds of people had flocked to the 9,300-foot high Pir Chinasi resort to enjoy the season’s first snowfall.

However, when the snowfall became intense, most of them were unable to go back to Muzaffarabad through the snow-bound road and consequently got stuck up there, he said.

The commissioner said that after some local tourists alerted Muzaffarabad-based media persons and police about the situation, rescue teams were rushed to the area in 4x4 vehicles to evacuate the stranded tourists to safety.

It takes motorists less than an hour from Muzaffarabad to reach Pir Chinasi, located at a distance of 34 kilometres, in their normal 4x2 vehicles.

Mr Rehman said the teams evacuated the stranded tourists in their 4x4 vehicles to a state-run guesthouse in Sarran, five kilometres short of Pir Chinasi at an altitude of 7,540 feet, in the first leg of the rescue operation. From Sarran, all of them were brought to Muzaffarabad afterwards, he said.

The commissioner said that 30 drivers had been provided safe accommodation in Sarran rest house for the night, so that they could drive back their stuck-up vehicles in Pir Chinasi on Friday when the weather is predicted to be clear.

Mr Rehman said the heavy snowfall had also struck other high altitude areas, but no such complaint was received from anywhere else.

Published in Dawn, December 30th, 2022

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