The catastrophe brought upon by extreme weather conditions in Murree resulting in 21 deaths is a tragedy that could have been avoided, or at least mitigated to the extent that such unnecessary loss of life could be kept to a minimum. Horrific details and videos that have since emerged paint a disturbing picture of how those who perished expired in a state of helplessness and despair. It is a bitter irony that the very thing that thousands of tourists had attempted to witness by making their way to Murree is what ended up taking their lives: the snow. It is most unfortunate that the deaths were not a result of low temperature, rather the poisonous fumes that were inhaled by passengers stuck in the massive traffic jam who had turned their car heaters on and gone to sleep, leading to suffocation. That 10 among the 21 were children is a figure hard to digest. Moreover, the death toll is expected to increase as the rescue operation proceeds and more cars are dug out.
While the Punjab and federal governments have expressed their grief, the leadership in both cases has not provided any rationale as to why such a large number of travellers were allowed to enter the Galyat in the first place. What is worse, days earlier, Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry was treating the entry of ‘over 100,000 vehicles’ in the area as the government’s success in promoting tourism. Put simply, this is a case of counting your chickens before they hatch.
Both factors in this case were easily measurable and predictable; the intensity of the weather and influx of cars, with only the latter being under the control of relevant authorities. Clearly no attention was paid to this lack of road capacity and the traffic was allowed to build up in search of a meaningless accolade of increased interest in the country’s Northern Area tourist sights. Entire families have died under the most horrendous of circumstances due to a lack of diligence and competence. There is a need to fix responsibility here and punish carelessness. However, it is more than likely that the usual drivel of monetary compensation and ‘investigations’ will follow and eventually the matter will be off the airwaves and parked neatly in cold storage, no pun intended!