ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani court on Thursday castigated the country's top disaster management authority for the death of several tourists in Murree last week amid an intense snowstorm.
According to the local media, Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah blamed the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) for the tragedy, saying people would not have lost their lives if relevant officials had taken appropriate measures to deal with the situation.
Twenty-two tourists died trapped in their cars last Saturday after a storm clogged roads and stranded them overnight in freezing weather.
Police said some of the victims froze to death in their cars, while others died from asphyxiation after inhaling exhaust fumes in snow-bound vehicles.
"You are responsible for this incident," the chief justice told an NDMA representative according to Dawn. "Every [official] included in the NDMA law is responsible for these deaths. The whole state is responsible for these deaths."
"If preparations and measures had been taken, 22 people and children would not have died," he continued while asking if the NDMA had ever prepared a plan for Murree district.
The chief justice instructed the prime minister to call a meeting of the National Disaster Management Commission next week, asking the NDMA official to submit a report on behalf of the commission in the court by January 21.
The IHC decided to look into the Murree tragedy after one of the residents of the resort town, Hammad Abbasi, requested it to probe the development and hold those responsible for the deaths of tourists accountable.
Earlier this week, the authorities sealed 15 hotels in Pakistan's picturesque hill station, blaming them for overcharging tourists during the blizzard which forced many of them to spend the night in their vehicles.
The action was taken after several tourists complained on social media that hotels had taken advantage of stranded people by heavily charging them for accommodation.