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Assistant commissioner, chief traffic officer ‘negligence’ caused Murree tourist tragedy

16 Jan, 2022
An aerial view of the road cleared in Murree on January 9, 2022. Photo: Twitter.com/@RwpPolice
An aerial view of the road cleared in Murree on January 9, 2022. Photo: Twitter.com/@RwpPolice

Negligence of the area’s assistant commissioner and the chief traffic officer led to the January 8’s tourist tragedy in Murree, where 22 people – including nine children – died, sources said while quoting the findings of the five-member inquiry committee, Aaj News reported on Sunday.

Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar on January 9 ordered the formation of the committee to investigate the incident and asked it to complete the investigation within seven days. Several questions were raised after the incident as the government was looking into the tragedy as to whether it was “avoidable” or “not.”

However, the government had also claimed that the district administration was “caught unprepared”. According to PM Imran Khan’s Jan 8 tweet, “Unprecedented snowfall & rush of people proceeding without checking weather conditions caught district admin unprepared.” Expressing sorrow over the incident, he had ordered an inquiry into the incident.

Sources said that the investigation committee has drafted its findings and would submit the report to Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar tomorrow (Monday). They added that statements of as many as 30 officers from administrative departments were recorded.

In addition to the government officers, they said that tourists who were rescued from the site were also interviewed as part of the investigation.

“Tourists termed January 7 and 8 as horrific days,” it read, “Negligence of the Murree assistant commissioner and the chief traffic officer led to the incident.”

They added that the roads to the hill station were late closed that should have been shut after three days (of heavy snow). It further revealed that warnings from the Meteorological Department were “ignored” and the machinery to clear the road of snow and staff to run that were at different places.

The revelations come after a couple of days after the Islamabad High Court observed that it was a failure of the National Disaster Management Authority that led to the deaths of 22 tourists after it emerged that the country’s apex disaster preparedness body had not met to formulate a national strategy during the tenure of the incumbent government.

The court had warned that it would have to summon the NDMA chief and the prime minister’s principal secretary in case a meeting of the National Disaster Management Commission was not convened before Jan 21, the date of the next hearing.

Furthermore, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry in a presser in Islamabad on Jan 11 said that according to the initial investigation, all the deaths in the Murree tourist tragedy were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning.

According to the minister, some people opted to stay in the car while many left their vehicles to seek help nearby when the road between Kuldana and Parian was blocked due to a heavy storm.

According to the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, carbon monoxide is found in fumes produced any time people burn fuel in cars or trucks, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges, or furnaces. The colourless and odourless gas can build up indoors and poison people and animals who breathe it, it added.