Pakistani army tries to open roads in snowy town

Koldana – AFP

Rescue teams in Pakistan are working today Sunday on the roads leading to a mountainous city where thousands of tourists were stranded, as 22 people died in their cars trapped in the snow.

Visitors flocked to see the unusual snowfall in Moree, 70 kilometers northeast of the capital, Islamabad.

But on Friday a storm hit, uprooting trees and cutting through narrow roads to the town, which sits on several hills and 2,400 meters above sea level.

“It was unprecedented,” said an official from the nearby town of Nathia Gali, noting that the depth of the snow varied from one meter to one and a half meters in a matter of hours.

“I have never seen such a violent snowstorm in my life,” he added. Strong winds blew, uprooted trees and caused avalanches. The people were terrified.

Hundreds of thousands of visitors flocked to the city on Friday, causing a suffocating traffic jam even before the storm, authorities said.

Authorities have reported that 22 people have died in their cars, due to cold or carbon monoxide poisoning in their cars.

Among the victims were a police officer, his wife and their six children.

The daily Dawn published what was mentioned during the last telephone conversation between this policeman, Naveed Iqbal, and one of his sons in Islamabad, in which he said: “We will turn on the heating and sleep”.

Queues of cars and people try to leave the storm-affected town of Koldana near Moree.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed his shock, noting that the snowfall and the influx of tourists “have stunned the administration of the region”.

However, several Pakistani media have criticized local officials, noting that the Pakistan Meteorological Center warned of a storm on Thursday morning.

The center said Thursday: “It is recommended that the competent authorities remain on alert”, and expects “heavy snowfall” which could lead to the closure of roads leading to Morey.

The authorities have promised to open an investigation, stressing that “if any form of negligence is found, action will be taken”.

The Pakistani military confirmed that it had evacuated all survivors of the stranded cars, adding that more than a thousand abandoned vehicles were hampering the icebreakers’ work.

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