Murree, one of Pakistan’s most favorite tourist destinations, has allowed tourists back into the hill station after an eight-day ban.
The response on Sunday, however, was lukewarm at best. Only 1,028 tourists vehicles entered the town by the 5pm deadline.
On January 7, 22 tourists froze to death after their cars were stuck in snow for hours during a blizzard. Investigation reports revealed the administration was at fault for not taking timely precautionary measures to prevent the disaster.
The government, subsequently, imposed restrictions on the entry of tourists in the hill station and adjoining areas.
On Sunday, SAMAA TV’s Zaheer Ali reported that the Murree Expressway has been reopened for the public. But the number of vehicles entering the highway is way less than usual.
“Since 5am, hardly four to five cars have entered Murree,” a traffic police officials said. “Vehicles are being stopped and tourists are briefed on mandatory measures they have to take such as parking cars on the roadside, driving slow, etc.”
The Murree tragedy took place due to an overwhelming influx of cars, unhindered by the authorities. A day before the disaster, more than 100,000 vehicles entered the hill station.
The authorities have, therefore, set a limit of 8,000 cars for Murree in a day, 5am to 5pm. Night travel has been banned. Local cars have been exempted from the new measures.
By the 5pm deadline on Sunday, only 1028 vehicles entered Murree, officials told SAMAA TV.
On the other hand, tourists who arrived at the hill station complained about high prices.
“The rates have been increased. Last year the chairlift ride cost Rs500 and now it costs Rs850,” one tourist told SAMAA TV.
New weather forecast and contingency plans
Meanwhile, the Met Office has forecast another spell of snow in Murree, Galiyat, and other cities up north from January 18 to January 20. The temperatures will dip below the freezing point.
To prevent another disaster, the administration has prepared a contingency plan to deal with any untoward situation.
According to it, two control rooms, at the Deputy Commissioner’s Office in Rawalpindi and the Assistant Commissioner’s Office in Murree, have been established which will run 24 hours. Citizens can easily lodge their complaints in case of an emergency.
Snow removal and traffic management have been made top priorities in the new strategy.