Pakistan: 20 tourists froze to death in blizzard

At least 20 tourists stranded in their vehicles died from extreme weather during a snowstorm in Murree on Friday night, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid said Saturday.

The Punjab government has declared an emergency in the area and opened guest houses for stranded tourists.

Murree is a mountain resort town located in the Ghaliyat district of the Pir Panjal range, in the Rawalpindi district of Punjab, Pakistan

According to the minister who arrived in Murree, hundreds of cars are stuck in Murree, while more than 23,000 vehicles have been rescued from snow captivity.

The minister said heavy equipment was brought in to clear the roads, and the help of the civilian armed forces and military was requested to rescue stranded tourists. Authorities have decided to use helicopters for rescue operations once the weather clears, he added.

Meanwhile, the Punjab government has declared a state of emergency in the region, declaring it a disaster zone, amid fears that the death toll could rise.

Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar has ordered government guest houses in the area to provide shelter to stranded tourists. A state of emergency has been declared in all important departments, including police, administration, rescue service 1122 and hospitals, Radio Pakistan reported.

Buzdar said evacuating stranded tourists is the government’s top priority, adding that tourists are being provided with necessary basic necessities, including food.

Separately, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry asked tourists not to plan trips to the upper reaches of the country for several days.

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