MURREE: The heavy snowfall in the hill station triggered multiple problems for the tourists as exorbitant rent was being demanded by the hotel managements and the administration was nowhere to avert the tragic situation.
It was stated in the initial report that the roads of the resort had not been repaired in two years and there was no machinery to remove the snow from the roads. The government started taking action at 8:00am.
After the tragic incident of death of 23 people following the heavy snowfall on Friday night, efforts for clearing roads and rescuing the stranded tourists are under way and traffic on most of the roads has been restored partially.
However, the road leading to Galiyat was not cleared and restored for vehicular traffic yet. Sardar Muhammad Niaz, a resident of Galiyat told this scribe that a number of vehicles were still under heavy snow in the Galiyat area. But no more casualties have been reported in the area, which shows that the vehicle riders chose to move to safer places during the snowstorm, leaving their vehicles there.
The rescue operation, jointly conducted by Pakistan Army, local administration, NGOs and individuals including locals in snow-hit areas, is still going on and it is expected that the tourists’ activities would be restored in Murree in a couple of days.
Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar visited Murree on Sunday to get the firsthand information about the affected areas, and also had an aerial view of the areas in a helicopter. He was briefed about the tragic incident at a special meeting.
The CM also announced giving Murree the status of a district, whereas the administrative structure of the city would be upgraded and an additional deputy commissioner (ADC) and superintendent of police (SP) would be deputed immediately at the tourist hill resort.
It was also decided that small link roads would be constructed soon to regulate and divert traffic in case of any traffic jam on the main roads. It was also decided that Rs1.76 million would be given to bereaved families as compensation, who lost their loved-ones in the incident. The meeting was also attended by Sadaqat Ali Abbasi, MNA, Maj (R) Latasib Satti, MPA, Raja Basharat, Punjab law minister, and Hasaan Khawar, spokesman for the Punjab government.
CM Buzdar vowed an “impartial action” against all those found negligent of their duties. He issued a statement on Twitter on Sunday to announce a series of measures being taken by the Punjab government to institute permanent solutions to longstanding issues in the tourist destination. He said that the government’s foremost priority had first been to complete rescue operation.
Thereafter, a “long consultative session” was held in Murree accompanied by a “detailed briefing”. “Some important decisions have been taken so that with short and long-term solutions, a permanent solution to longstanding issues can be arrived at,” the CM said.
Buzdar said that in seven days, a probe committee, supervised by the additional chief secretary for the Punjab Home Department, will submit a report and “impartial action” will be taken against those found negligent of their duties. Buzdar said two new police stations would be established in the city. In addition, two new parking plazas would be constructed in Sunny Bank and Jhika Gali and a shuttle service would be operated between these points.
The chief minister said Rescue-1122 staff would be provided trail bikes and wireless communication systems. Furthermore, under a new traffic management system, new connecting roads to Murree would be built.
State-run APP reported that the meeting took place in Gharial, Murree, during which the chief minister was given a detailed briefing on rescue and relief operations. Commissioner Rawalpindi Division, City Police Officer Rawalpindi, Deputy Commissioner Rawalpindi, and CTO Rawalpindi gave a detailed account to the chief minister on various aspects of the tragic incident.
A report was presented to him on the tragic incident and he was briefed about the traffic management plan. Buzdar expressed his annoyance over the overcrowding in Murree, APP reported. He spent over three hours in Murree, APP said.
Later in the day, an initial report was presented to the chief minister. It said that on January 7, four feet of snow fell in Murree. According to the report, between January 3 and 7, 162,000 vehicles entered the city. The report said that the 22 people died due to carbon monoxide poisoning on January 7. Trees fell at 16 different points, blocking off the roads for traffic, said the report.
According to the report, 21,000 cars that made their way to Murree were sent back. “Vehicles and tourists exceeding the specified limit would not be allowed to enter Murree,” Buzdar was quoted as saying. The chief minister also directed the authorities concerned to take strict action against hotels involved in overcharging rent, terming it “absolutely intolerable”.