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At least 16 stranded snow-tourists die at Pakistan hill station

At least 16 stranded snow-tourists die at Pakistan hill station
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KARACHI, Pakistan (Reuters) – At least 16 tourists died in freezing temperatures after stranded in their cars in northern Pakistan as thousands flocked to enjoy the snow, officials said on Saturday.

With about 1,000 stuck vehicles, the government declared Morey, 64 km northeast of the capital, Islamabad, a disaster area.

“For the first time in 15 to 20 years, so many tourists have flocked to Mori, causing a great crisis,” Pakistani Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said in a video message.

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The minister said that about a thousand cars stopped at the hill station, which is a town higher than the neighboring area, stressing that “between 16 to 19 deaths occurred in their cars.”

He explained that the army and paramilitary factions were deployed to assist the Civil Administration in the rescue operations.

The government announced late Friday the closure of all roads to the station to stem any further influx of tourists.

Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed his shock at the “tragic deaths” of tourists. “We have ordered an investigation and strict regulations to ensure such tragedies are prevented,” Khan said in a tweet.

And Information Minister Fouad Chaudhry appealed to citizens not to visit the hill station.

The snow, which began on Tuesday night, continued at regular intervals, attracting thousands of tourists. Due to the huge numbers of visitors, many families ended up stranded on the roads.

Local media reported that more than 100,000 vehicles entered the hill station.

Videos circulated on social media showed entire families, including children, lying dead in their snow-covered cars.

“Was the deaths due to cold or carbon monoxide poisoning?” Dr. Fahim Younis, chair of the Department of Infectious Diseases at the University of Maryland, said in a tweet. In the snow, a clogged exhaust (muffler) can quickly kill occupants as they inhale carbon dioxide.”

Officials did not have any word on the cause of the deaths.

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(Report: Syed Reda Hassan). Editing by William Mallard

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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