At least 22 people, including 10 children, have died at a popular mountain resort in Pakistan after being trapped in their vehicles overnight during a heavy snowstorm as temperatures plummeted, officials said on Saturday.
Most of the victims died of hypothermia, officials said. Among them were a policeman from Islamabad and seven other members of his family, said fellow policeman Atiq Ahmed.
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More than 4 feet (1 meter) of snow fell in the Murree Hills resort area overnight Friday and early Saturday, trapping thousands of cars on the roads, Home Secretary Sheikh Rashid said. Ahmed. The snow was so heavy that the heavy equipment brought in to clear it initially got stuck overnight, said Umar Maqbool, deputy commissioner of the city of Murree. Temperatures fell to minus 8 degrees Celsius (17.6 degrees Fahrenheit).
The authorities called in paramilitary troops and a special mountain military unit to help them. As of Saturday evening, thousands of vehicles had been removed from the snow but more than a thousand were still stranded, Ahmed said.
Most of the roads leading to resorts in the area were largely cleared of snow on Saturday evening and military troops were busy clearing the rest, Maqbool said. The military also converted schools run by the military into relief camps where they provided shelter and food to tourists who had been rescued.
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Emergency officials distributed food and blankets to people as they were stuck in their snow-covered vehicles, but many died of hypothermia. Others may have died of carbon monoxide poisoning after running their car’s heating for long periods of time, emergency services doctor Abdur Rehman said. As of Saturday evening, the death toll included 10 men, 10 children and two women, Rehman said.
In one case, a husband, wife and their two children all died in their car. In another, four young friends died together, he said.
Located 46 kilometers north of the capital of Islamabad, Murree is a popular winter resort that attracts over a million tourists each year. The streets leading to the city are often blocked by snow in winter.
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