Pakistan is blessed with several hilly areas that experience snowfall yearly, making the sites worth seeing. But sometimes, the magical-looking snow can become a lethal thing for the ones who are experiencing it. Like last year in Murree, when a snowstorm occurred, many tourists were affected badly as the city administration was unprepared for this sudden storm. Given this tragic incident, disaster management authorities must take preventive measures to avoid such tragedies and protect tourists in future.
Pakistan- A Winter Destination for Tourists
Pakistan is famous for its scenic beauty and magnificent mountainous ranges. In the winter season, the mountains are blanketed with white snow that becomes an attraction for tourists. With the start of snowy weather, the scenic valleys of Swat, Malam Jabba, Kalam, Dir, Kumrat, Kaghan, Naran, Kashmir and Galiyat are transformed into a white wonderland, giving panoramic views to the visitors and offer tourists multiple opportunities for adventure. Every year a large influx of tourists visit the country to experience the unforgettable sites of Pakistan. According to a World Bank study, around 7.6 billion tourists visited Pakistan in 2020. The snowy weather usually starts in December and stays till March-April. Snowfall brings beauty with itself, but it can be lethal sometimes if not properly managed.
A Tragic Incident in Murree
Every year, a record number of people visit Murree to experience snowfall. According to some reports, around 155,000 vehicles entered Murree in January 2022 last winter. Unfortunately, the tourists were stuck in their cars on the roads for several days due to bad weather conditions like unstoppable heavy rains. However, the situation was exacerbated by heavy snowfall overnight, resulting in road blockages. In some instances, the snowstorm and intense winds also uprooted trees that fell on the roads and several vehicles. The incident killed at least 22 people, including 10 children frozen to death inside the cars.
Constructive Approach to Deal with Such Weather Incidents
The snowfall attracts thousands of tourists to these scenic sites, which results in extra traffic load on the roads choking almost every entry and exit point of those hill stations. However, the situation worsens with unexpected weather conditions, like consecutive heavy rainfall, cold winds, snowstorms, etc. For such cases, the city administration should follow a pragmatic approach to deal with unpredictable weather conditions to avoid such tragedies in future. In light of such an incident, concerned authorities must issue travel alerts and guidelines for visitors during winter. As per the weather forecast, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) should direct the city authorities to be prepared for any weather disaster and act accordingly.
Moreover, the local administration should have adequate machinery to clear snow to open travel routes. It is pertinent to mention here that the authorities must check the area’s capacity, as Murree has a limited capacity and can only accommodate 4,000 cars at a given time. To overcome the capacity issue, the government should develop large parking spaces that can accommodate a large inflow of tourist cars.
Protecting tourists should be the priority of the government. To do so, the Government of Pakistan should direct the city’s administrative authority and City’s Traffic Police to issue a travel advisory for tourists to take precautionary measures while travelling to any hill station.
Additional traffic wardens should be deployed to facilitate the commuters to avoid any traffic inconvenience and to ensure the safe journey of the tourists.
Tourist police should have advanced snow bikes to provide instant aid in any unforeseen incident.
Precautions for Tourists Before Going to Hill Station in Winter
Before going on a trip to these areas, tourists must take some precautions to stay safe.
Check the weather forecast to have a safe experience.
Keep non-perishable and high-energy food with you, such as nuts, granola bars, dried fruit or beef jerky.
Tourists should use petroleum-based vehicles and strictly prohibit CNG-based vehicles, which may cause car problems due to extreme cold in the snow.
Travelling with Infants and asthma patients should be avoided at hill stations like Murree in snowy weather.
Tourists should install emergency lights in their cars and keep tyre chains while travelling to snowy areas. Keep a first aid kit including adhesive bandages, medical tape, antiseptic wipes, gauze pads, antiseptic cream, medical wrap and pocket knife.
Keep a Battery-powered flashlight, extra batteries and flares.
You could tie a bright-coloured cloth to your vehicle’s antenna or secure it atop your rolled-up window to ensure you are visible.
Fully charge your cell phone and keep an extra power bank with you
Keep jumper and booster cables with a fully charged battery or an external battery charger to start your car if the battery dies.
Keep your car’s tool kit, and make sure to have all the important tools.
Pakistan is famous for its hospitality, exquisite cuisine, historical sites, and majestic mountains. The last year’s Murree incident has put doubt on the country’s tourism administrative capabilities. The authorities should learn lessons from it and follow a pragmatic approach to avoid tragedies. Tourists should also take care of themselves by taking preventive measures before stepping out on a trip.
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