Tuesday Jan 11, 2022
What happened in Murree was a tragedy of unimaginable proportions and a question on the administration’s blithe disregard for the sanctity of human life.
Nature-lovers, who ventured northbound to see the snowfall of Murree with their families, froze to death after hours of being stuck in their cars. Thus, a journey meant to be a memorable one turned out to be an icy deathtrap for over 23 hapless people, including innocent children.
Murree finally saw on Monday the sun after seven nightmarish days of intermittent, but heavy snowfall.
Had the Murree administration issued timely warnings to tourists, the tragedy could have been avoided but part of the responsibility also lies with the tourists who chose to visit the hill station despite reports about the wild weather conditions.
With heavy rainfall having lashed Islamabad and Rawalpindi for nearly a week before the snowstorm in Murree, which along with nearby hill stations had already received extraordinary snowfall, those who visited the hill station should have been mindful of the precarious weather conditions but they erred in being cautious.
However, the authorities are ultimately responsible.
Despite the enormous influx of tourists, which is primarily due to the government’s failure to regulate the numbers, why did the authorities wait a week for the situation to spiral out of control? Why were so many vehicles allowed to proceed further to the hill stations having limited capacity, and Murree, in particular, having space for only 4,000 cars to park?
Furthermore, in view of the bleak weather forecast, the authorities should have issued public travel alerts, advising families to postpone trips to the hill station.
Worse, the media reports showed that in spite of the tragedy that befell Murree, a never-ending queue of vehicles could be seen at the entry points of the hill station, with the families requesting or arguing with the authorities to let them in.
It was only after the Rangers and other law enforcement authorities set up pickets at the entry points that the prospective tourists relented and chose to return to their homes.
According to news sources citing traffic officials, more than 155,000 vehicles entered Murree in the previous week, with 135,000 returning safely and the rest getting stranded.
To avoid more catastrophes like these, the inflow of tourists to hill stations must be regulated in light of the current facilities.