At least 21 people dead as snow traps hundreds of drivers in Pakistan
At least 21 people have died in Pakistan after heavy snow trapped them in their vehicles .
Almost 1,000 vehicles most of whom were tourists became stranded after rushing to view the winter snowfall in the hilltop town of Murree.
A policeman, his wife and their six children, as well as another family-of-five, are among the dead, according to local emergency services.
Pakistani military says it has rescued more than 300 people stranded by the snow.
An army spokesperson added that military engineers and troops had also started to clear roads leading to Murree town.
Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid said the crisis had been caused by the number of people travelling to the area which is north of the capital Islamabad.
More than 100,000 cars had arrived in the town in recent days, with social media in Pakistan flooded with pictures of tourists enjoying the snow.
But by Friday, January 7, local media reported that tourists were getting stranded. On Saturday, the heavy snow plus increase in vehicles prompted authorities to declare the region a disaster zone.
As at Saturday, January 8, at least 21 people have died, including 10 children, according to emergency services with at least six frozen to death in their cars. Asphyxiation after inhaling fumes has been given as another reason for the death of others.
Locals have provided blankets and food to the trapped, while those who could make it up to the town – which sits at 2,300 metres (7,500 feet) above sea level – have been given shelter in government and school buildings.
Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed shock over the “tragic deaths” of the tourists, noting how the snowfall and the “rush of [people] proceeding without checking weather conditions caught district admin unprepared”.
“I have ordered inquiry and putting in place strong regulations to ensure prevention of such tragedies,” Khan said in a tweet