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Thursday May 26, 2022

Murree tragedy: Probe reveals 20 of 29 snowploughing vehicles were all parked in one spot

Not only were the 20 vehicles all in one spot, there were no drivers or workers available to get them up and running: sources

By Web Desk
January 14, 2022
Workers use heavy machinery to clear a road following a blizzard that started on January 7 trapping visitors in vehicles along the roads to the resort hill town of Murree, some 70km northeast of Islamabad on January 9, 2022. — AFP
Workers use heavy machinery to clear a road following a blizzard that started on January 7 trapping visitors in vehicles along the roads to the resort hill town of Murree, some 70km northeast of Islamabad on January 9, 2022. — AFP

An ongoing probe by an investigation committee into the tragic deaths  on January 7 of more than 20 people in Murree amid unprecedented snowfall has revealed that of 29 snowploughing vehicles, 20 were all parked in one location.

The probe committee recorded the statements of the operational staff to determine what transpired that fateful day.

Sources told Geo News that not only were the 20 vehicles all in one spot, there were no drivers or workers available to get them up and running.

The sources said that employees of the Forest and Wildlife Department failed to provide satisfactory responses to the committee's questions.

The probe further revealed that the district administration sent back around 50,000 vehicles from Murree's entry points that day.

Meanwhile, a hearing was held in the Lahore High Court on a petition requesting an inquiry into the negligence shown by government institutions.

The secretary of the Tourism Department and the director-general of the National Disaster Management Authority were summoned in court.

Aside from them, the Rawalpindi commissioner, deputy commissioner, chief traffic officer and regional police officer were also ordered to appear in court.

In addition, notices for court appearances were sent to the association of hotel owners in Murree to appear in court on January 19.

What transpired

At least 22 people lost their lives in freezing temperatures amid unprecedented snowfall in Murree on January 7. The tourists died in their cars as they were trapped in road jams due to the accumulation of snow on the roads.

Despite a severe weather warning by the Met Office, the local managements of Rawalpindi and Islamabad failed to adopt safety measures to prevent hundreds of thousands of visitors from entering Murree in the hazardous weather conditions.

On January 5, the Met Office had warned of heavy rain with heavy snowfall in all hilly areas including Murree, Galiyat, Neelum Valley, Naran, Kagan, etc., on January 7.

That day, roads were jammed with traffic from thousands of visitors when a blizzard dumped four feet (1.2 metres) of snow.

Stuck in their cars overnight, the people died from carbon monoxide poisoning from exhaust fumes from heaters left running overnight, as stated in an initial report submitted by the probe committee.

According to the report, between January 3 and 7, 162,000 vehicles entered the city.

Trees fell at 16 different points, blocking off the roads for traffic, said the report.

The Islamabad High Court has held the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) responsible for the tragedy.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar has vowed "indiscriminate action" against all those found negligent in their duties.

The chief minister also announced Rs17.6 million in financial assistance for the families of the deceased, while noting that monetary assistance is "no substitute for human life", APP reported.