By Hamza Ameer
Murree Pakistan - Murree, the most loved tourist spot in Pakistan, located at an altitude of at 2 291 meters, became the worst nightmare for thousands of tourists, who went to the tourist hill station, only to end up in the dark clouds of a deadly snowstorm.
It was the snowing season in Murree that attracted hundreds of thousands of tourists to start their journey towards the heartland, not knowing that their trip would turn into their most dreaded experience.
The past 48 hours saw a massive downpour of snow in Murree and surrounding mountain areas, stranding hundreds of thousands of vehicles on the roads, left to the mercy of the snowstorm's icy hands and an unpredicted fate.
As authorities struggled to clean the routes filled with at least 4 feet of snow, thousands of tourists, stranded in the traffic jam, spent the night in their cars.
Many kept their car engines started, and heaters on to keep themselves safe from the chilling snow piling up on the outside.
Three best friends - Sohail Khan, Asad and Bilal, who joined together to take a joy ride to Murree and enjoy the snowfall, were among some of the ill-fated travellers, whose journey took their life.
Sohail, Asad and Bilal got stranded in the traffic and the snow-covered road leading to Murree. They kept their car engine on to keep the heater running. However, with snowfall pilling up all round their car, it choked the silencer, making carbon mono-oxide flow back into the car, making all three dizzy and later becoming the reason for their death.
The locals, who saw them unconscious in the car, discovered the three. But after the car's doors were opened, all three had died of suffocation.
Another family of eight, including women and young children were also among 22 others unfortunate victims, who were found dead in their cars. The ill-fated family included Islamabad Police officer, ASI Naveed Iqbal, his 43-year-old wife and at least six kids (four daughters and two sons).
The snowstorm in Murree broke records of the past 30 years. The rescue authorities, police and army personnel were seen reaching out to the stranded cars and tourists, moving them to safer locations, while machineries kept working to clear the heavy snow on the roads.
While Murree is a hotspot for tourists, it has a parking capacity of at least 4 000 vehicles. However, the first spell of snow attracted a massive amount of tourists to move towards Murree. As per estimates, at least 1,50,000 vehicles had already entered into Murree while thousands more were stranded on the roads.
The death of at least 22 innocent lives, who left their homes on a joyride but ended in a tragedy, tell a lot about the lack of infrastructure of the country's most loved tourists spot.
Locals have questioned the disaster response capabilities of the Imran Khan-led government, who they say has been promoting tourism, but failing to ensure proper infrastructure for the safety of the tourists.