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All major highways in Murree opened for traffic: ISPR

Updated 09 Jan, 2022
(Clockwise) An aerial view of the road cleared in Murree. Civil Administration  with police helps a vehicle to leave the road. An army personnel assists in clearing track for a vehicle. Military engineers troops and civil administration use bulldozers to clear snow on Road Jheeka Gali-Kuldanna and Road Kuldanna - Barian. Collage/Twitter.com/APP/PTV/Rawalpindi Police
(Clockwise) An aerial view of the road cleared in Murree. Civil Administration with police helps a vehicle to leave the road. An army personnel assists in clearing track for a vehicle. Military engineers troops and civil administration use bulldozers to clear snow on Road Jheeka Gali-Kuldanna and Road Kuldanna - Barian. Collage/Twitter.com/APP/PTV/Rawalpindi Police

All the major routes in Murree -- including the Murree Expressway -- were cleared of snow and opened for traffic on Sunday to ensure stranded individuals can safely return back, as the rescue operation teams conduct relief efforts in the calamity-hit region where at least 22 people died after being stranded in their cars en-route to Murree amid heavy snowfall.

The latest development regarding the relief efforts was shared by the Inter-Services Public Relations in a statement and Special Assistant to the PM on Political Communication Shahbaz Gill in a tweet.

According to ISPR's latest update, all the major highways -- including Kadna Barian -- have been opened for traffic and "speedy work" was under way to open access roads. The statement read that army relief camps were fully operational and stranded tourists were being shifted to twin cities.

SAPM Gill said: "All major highways in Murree have been cleared for traffic. About 600 to 700 vehicles were evacuated from Murree last night. Rawalpindi police, district administration, Pakistan Army men and our locals remained active throughout the night."

Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar ordered a high-level inquiry into the incident and formed a committee headed by the Punjab additional chief secretary (home), tasking it to submit its report within seven days, Aaj News reported. The chief minister, who issued the directives while presiding over a meeting in Gharial, said indiscriminate action would be taken against those responsible for negligence in the light of the report of the inquiry committee. The report then would be submitted to Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The provincial government has announced worth Rs800,000 aid for each individual who died in the incident that means around Rs10.76 million worth of amount would be distributed among the families of the deceased. Furthermore, in order to avert such a situation, the Punjab CM has decided to appoint senior government officers in Murree and set up two new police stations in the calamity-hit region.

"Two new parking plazas will be constructed at Sunny Bank and Jhika Gali and shuttle service will be run from there to Mall Road. Rescue 1122 personnel will be provided with trail bikes and wireless systems, and new traffic management systems will be used to build the dying link roads," it added.

"All the families and citizens stranded in Murree area have been shifted to government rest houses and hotels and their needs including medicines, food and warm clothes are being met," Punjab CM Buzdar said in his tweet earlier in the day. As per police records, 33,373 vehicles -- out of the 33,745 entered Murree till last night -- have exited the area, it added. Moreover, the Punjab CM was about to visit the calamity-hit area today and review the relief operations.

According to the ISPR earlier update, the team of army doctors and paramedics have provided medical care to more than 300 snow affected people -- including children. Moreover, a cooked meal was served to over 1,000 stranded people in Jhika Gali, Kashmiri Bazar, Lower Topa and Kuldana.

"Stranded People have been accommodated & provided shelter with hot meals and tea at the military college Murree, Supply Depot, APS and Army Logistics School Kuldana," the armed forces media wing said in a statement on Sunday.

It also updated on the traffic, "Traffic is plying from Jhika Gali to Expressway. The traffic is cleared from Jhika Gali to Kuldana, however, no traffic is plying because of the slippery condition of the road. The track from Gharial to Bhurban is open. And on Kuldana to Barian track, army engineers troops with road clearance machinery working continuously for road clearance.

According to Murree Division Commanding Officer Major General Wajid Aziz, the army relief and rescue operation started from the night and the military police officers were watching the traffic with the civil administration. "COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa had given clear instructions to provide all-out support to the people and all possible efforts should be made to provide relief to the public and no one should have any problem," he told reporters on Saturday.

A camp was set up at the Army School of Logistics in Kaldanaan and another was set up at Sunny Bank, he said, adding that the Army School of Logistics housed 60 families, 50 families were in the camp set up at the Sunny Bank.

The Punjab government on Saturday said that a thorough probe would be conducted into the Murree tourist tragedy.

“I think the governments should take responsibility for any incident that happens in their tenure. We should see whether this incident was ‘avoidable’ or ‘unavoidable,’” Punjab government spokesperson Hassan Khawar told reporters in Lahore.

Videos of the cars snowed in are making the rounds on social media and users have been questioning the government’s response to the disaster. The videos include harrowing visuals showing an entire family found dead inside their vehicle.