Unforgettable – avoidable Murree Tragedy

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You don’t know who am I? Why you have stopped me? What is wrong with you people? You people unnecessarily tease public? I am going to complain against you. How dare you stop me see reservation of my hotel. Stop harassing my family; this is what a traffic officer has to listen from people. Having listened the questions he advises the tourist that traffic is jam, there is rush it would be better if he goes back but nobody is in mode to take the advise. The problem with us is that we are not at all law abiding and majority of us is hostile to checks and can go to any extent to scold and humiliate the officer on duty. Be honest and accept this happens each day of the month and throughout the year. The purpose of checks is mainly to facilitate and guide the people to make them comfortable. During raining season and snow fall all travellers are supposed to be extra careful, in this case people also have to share the responsibility risking their life when it was snowing heavily
Now let us analyse the Murree tragedy in which 22 innocent lives were lost due to heaviest snow storm (not snow fall) coupled with lack of infrastructure, absence of administration and non deployment of heavy machinery to clean the road packed with snow. There are comprehensive SOP’s in place how to handle the tourists when they are visiting Murree and other hill resorts especially during snow fall periods, question arises why these were ignored? This all happened when met department had issued early warning of heavy snow fall on 31 December and 5 January 2022. Advance warning about likely closure of Murree roads between 6 and 9 January due to anticipated heavy snow fall was made public. It so happened neither the administration nor the public took this warning seriously as a result a mad rush was observed. All over the world when people are in trouble the state organs and the public at large come forward and assist the administration and help the affected people to make them comfortable. But this year a unique phenomenon was observed when people who were stuck up in snow storm when rushed towards hotels the hotel owners better be called as (butchers) instead helping them started demanding rent for a night stay from normal rent of Rs 3000 was raised to Rs 50000 and Nestle water bottle in Rs 1000, cup of tea Rs 500. They all refused to lower the rent therefore most of them returned to their cars to face the worst weather conditions. The hotel owners showed no mercy on small children who had gone with their parents to enjoy the snow fall not knowing it will be their last journey it proved first and the last snow fall for them.
Question arises after all who is responsible for this tragedy? Although it is massive administrative negligence on the part of civil administration knowing well that people are thronging Murree with no parking place should have closed the entry point, but they kept allowing the people to enter. As reported in the press against the capacity of 4000 vehicles there were 150000 vehicles that resulted in one of the worst traffic jam.As we all know an inquiry has been ordered to be completed in 7 days. The terms of reference of the inquiry revolve around failure of administration that include 1) Action plan after Met department issued warning 2) traffic arrangement due to overcrowding in Murree, 4) Why traffic was not stopped in Islamabad, 5) plan for emergencies in hotels, 6) placement of snow removing machinery, 7) establishment of control room, 8) How the people will be rescued from cars, hundreds of questions arise but only few have been listed. It is a fact administration was not visible anywhere till army moved in to rescue people and take them to safe places and provide them hot meal as they had not taken food for more than 24 hours. GOC Murree garrison was present and personally supervised the rescue operation, deserves appreciation along with the troops participated in pulling out people stuck up in the cars. It is very much clear that proper SOP’s were not followed, snow removing machinery was concentrated at one place, and the administration was operating from Rawalpindi. Normally as a precaution under such situations district authorities establish their camp offices to deal such emergencies but it was not done. This tragedy occurred on the cars on the routes from KPK the cars were stuck in an average of 4 to 5 feet snow on Barian Road in which 22 people died in cars due to suffocation as heaters of cars were on,. It is learnt that route from KPK towards Abbotabad is still covered with heavy snow with lot of vehicles stuck there may be more casualties therefore proper search operation must be conducted.
Let us today admit this fact that our state has turned in to VIP state and there is no room for VOP’s (very ordinary person), and ordinary person can go to hell. Question arises the administration was aware about the number of vehicles entering Murree why the entry was not blocked and people sent back due to overcrowding. For a change some heads must roll. Unfortunately we all become wiser after the event. CM Punjab has announced compensation for the deaths Rs 8 lac per head, that is a too small an amount, at least it should be raised to 5 million.




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