ISLAMABAD: Authorities in Pakistan lifted an entry ban on a hill station near the federal capital nearly 10 days after 22 people, including women and children, died in their vehicles after getting trapped in heavy snowstorm and traffic congestion.
More than four feet of snow dropped in Murree earlier this month, trapping tourists who had thronged to the area in their thousands.
Most of the victims suffered hypothermia as temperatures fell to -8°C (17.6°F). Officials said some died of carbon monoxide poisoning from running their car heaters while their mufflers were choked by snow.
After the tragedy, the federal government imposed an entry ban on Murree while carrying out rescue operation in the surrounding areas.
The Rawalpindi District Disaster Management Authority issued a notification on Saturday, however, to allow up to 8,000 vehicles to enter the resort town on a daily basis until the weather system improved.
“No entry will be allowed between 5 p.m. and 5 am except for emergency services and vehicles carrying food items and fuel,” read the notification.
It added police personnel would be deployed to keep an accurate count of vehicles and maintain a database of the net traffic.
“XEN Mechanical Machinery and Chief Traffic Police Office shall have effective coordination with Pakistan Meteorological Department to set up, maintain, review and upgrade mechanism for early warning to regulate traffic,” the notification said.
After heavy snowfall last week, civilian administration along with soldiers of the Pakistan Army evacuated hundreds of people who were stranded for the night at the popular resort, 45 kilometers northeast of Islamabad.
The Pakistan Meteorological Department has now predicted more rain and heavy snowfall in mountainous regions from January 18 to 20.
“A weather system of light to moderate intensity is expected to approach western and upper parts of the country from Tuesday [January 18] and may persist in upper parts till Thursday,” it said in an official statement.
“Light to moderate snowfall is expected in Murree, Galliyat, Nathiagali, Kaghan, Naran, Chitral, Dir, Swat, Kohistan, Astore, Hunza, Gilgit, Neelum Valley, Bagh and Haveli districts from Tuesday to Thursday,” it added while asking the relevant authorities to remain vigilant during the forecasted period.