At least 16 people have been killed in a snowstorm in Pakistan’s mountainous region

KARACHI, Pakistan, Jan 8 (Reuters) – At least 16 tourists were trapped in their vehicles in north Pakistan as thousands gathered to enjoy the snow, officials said on Saturday.

The government has declared Murray, 64 km (40 miles) northeast of the capital Islamabad, a disaster area, with about 1,000 vehicles still stranded.

“For the first time in 15 to 20 years, such a large number of tourists flocked to Murray, which created a major crisis,” Pakistani Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said in a video message.

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The minister said about 1,000 cars were stuck in the high mountains from a nearby area, confirming that “there were 16 to 19 deaths in their cars”.

Troops and paramilitary forces have been deployed to assist the civilian administration in the rescue operation, he said.

Late on Friday, the government announced that it would close all roads leading to the station to prevent the arrival of tourists.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has expressed shock over the “tragic death” of tourists. “I have ordered an inquiry and laid down strong rules to ensure that such tragedies are prevented,” Khan said in a tweet.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry has appealed to people not to go to the hills.

Thousands of tourists flocked to the site as the snowfall began on Tuesday night and continued to fall at regular intervals. Due to the large number of visitors, many families are stranded on the roads.

Local media reported that 100,000 vehicles had entered the mountain.

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Videos shared on social media showed entire families, including children, lying dead in icy vehicles.

“Did deaths from cold or carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning cause deaths?” Faheem Jonas said in a tweet. In snow, blocked exhaust (silencer) can kill passengers quickly while inhaling CO. “

Authorities did not say what caused the deaths.

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Syed Raza Hassan Report; Editing: William Mallard

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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