Met Office heavy snow warnings went unheeded – Pakistan

• Warning predicts difficult weather conditions in Murree, Galiyat, Nathiagali, Kaghan, Naran
• Pindi DC says closing entry points in Murree has led to chaos due to influx of people
• NDMA President says joint efforts are being made to move stranded people

ISLAMABAD: Relevant government departments, including the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and the Rawalpindi District Directorate, did not take any preventive action despite heavy snowfall warnings issued days before the Murree disaster. killed 22 people.

No prior meeting has been called by NDMA with the administrations of the districts of Rawalpindi, Islamabad and other departments to discuss the problems of circulation and accommodation in the hill station.

The Met Office issued an alert on January 5 that heavy snowfall could lead to road closures in Murree, Galiyat, Nathiagali, Kaghan, Naran and other areas from January 6 to January 9 in the afternoon.

“It is particularly advisable for all authorities concerned to remain ‘vigilant’ during the forecast period,” said the Met Office.

Murree received 6.5 inches of snow on January 5 (Wednesday), followed by 8.5 inches the next day, while 16.5 inches were recorded from the morning of January 7 (Friday) to Saturday morning.

“This is normal snowfall for Murree,” said a Met Office official.

In addition to posting this information on its website, these alerts and relevant information are transmitted directly to a large number of government departments by the Met Office.

However, shortly after that, on January 5, Murree tehsil’s administration issued a travel advisory, suggesting that tourists should get weather updates and traffic information before heading to the resort. Mountain.

As Murree is a tehsil from Rawalpindi district, no emergency meeting was called by the deputy commissioner to assess the realities on the ground.

However, Rawalpindi’s deputy commissioner Mohammad Ali said on social media that an increased number of traffic guards have been deployed under the supervision of inspectors at all important points to facilitate tourists and regulate traffic. .

In their tweet, Rawalpindi police said on January 5 that the town had a parking capacity of nearly 3,500 vehicles while more than 80,000 vehicles had entered Murree in the past two days.

When asked why the entry of tourists was not stopped at the toll booth after Bhara Kahu, Mr Ali said that all entry points in Murree tehsil were closed after 6 p.m. on Friday, but this created further chaos as people continued to pour in from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab.

NDMA’s meetings with Rawalpindi and Islamabad district administrations focused only on urban flooding in the Twin Cities.

“It was possible that the NDMA did not anticipate the disaster in Murree,” said a senior Punjabi government official.

While relief and rescue efforts were underway for the safe evacuation of those stranded in Murree, NDMA on Saturday developed coordination with relevant agencies including the military, Rescue 1122, the district administration. of Rawalpindi and the police department.

Members of the military were called in to provide support to vehicles stranded on blocked roads as there was no space to advance in the town of Murree.

Speaking to the electronic media, NDMA chairman Lt. Gen. Akhtar Nawaz said joint efforts were being made to move stranded people to safe areas.

“Many people have already been transferred to safe areas and with the help of the district administration, all commercial places, including restaurants, have been urged to make arrangements to accommodate additional people,” a- he said, adding: “Even locals have been urged to welcome stranded tourists as much as possible.

In response to calls, many local hotels offered to provide assistance, and one hotel announced it would provide a free meal for stranded tourists.

FWO and army engineers teams as well as civil administration departments have opened some roads, including the expressway and the road from Jhikagali to Gharial camp while the road from Jhikagali to Kuldana will be cleared on Saturday evening. .

Meanwhile, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa tourism department announced on Saturday that Galiyat had been completely closed for the next two days due to rains and snowfall.

In a tweet, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Integrated Tourism Development Project (KITE) called on tourists not to visit Galiyat for the next two days.

The department said Shandur, Lowari Tunnel, Narran, Babusar Top were also closed due to snowfall as well as the Karakoram Highway due to landslides in Pattan, Dassu and Jaglot.

Posted in Dawn, January 9, 2022

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