Once again, the Murree tragedy exposed the sheer negligence and mismanagement on the part of the government. Families who drove to Murree to enjoy the snowfall were brought back in coffins to their homes leaving everyone shocked and disoriented. Once more, Social Media’s brouhaha shoved the government into action what otherwise was sleeping at the wheel. If the government was being questioned for its utter incompetence, Murree as a tourist spot was demanded to be boycotted for the inconsiderate behaviour of locals towards the tourists and specifically people who were running amock to survive. Supposedly, some of the local restaurants in Murree were reported to have charged exorbitant rates just for one night stay, evidently stirring a hostile reaction from the nation. Apart from that, even the government was quick to place blame on the public for rushing to Murree while not keeping the track of the weather. And finally, we are to mull over why some people lost their lives to that deadly snow-cum-monoxide, while others were able to escape the death?
Before, blaming people for their ignorance, before blaming locals for being blood-suckers ripping off the tourists, why not question the ones where the responsibility to save people actually rests? Yeah, you guessed it, right. GOVERNMENT. Undoubtedly, it was the failure of the local, provincial and federal governments who couldn’t oversight the deteriorating situation in Murree. According to DAWN, the Met Office had already issued a warning on 5th Jan, advising the authorities concerned to remain vigilant from Jan 6 to Jan 9, fearing a deadly snowfall in Murree, Galyat, Natayagali, Kaghan, Naran and other areas. They were urged to regulate the situation to prevent any unfortunate occurrence, the warnings, however, went unheeded. No meetings were convened in District Rawalpindi, nor were anyone cautioned. On the contrary, government officials were jubilating over the large influx of almost 100,000 cars to Murree turning a blind eye to the fact that Murree couldn’t accommodate more than 4500-5000 cars. There was no attempt on the government’s part, to block the main entrance to Murree, to place machinery to facilitate the traffic, or provide assistance to people stranded in the heavy snow. People kept waiting in their cars for hours in a hope that they would be rescued, Alas! The government was nowhere to be found. It was after the videos on social media, posted by the same locals of Murree that mobilised the government into action. Routes leading to Murree were blocked and Pakistan Army was called in to clear roads of snow and rescue people.
Typical reactive response of our government to every disaster, to every calamity. Obviously, the snowfall did not happen for the first time, and even according to locals, the previous governments handled it much better; on the other hand, even the Met Office called it routine for Murree but it needed to be attended to, which unfortunately was not.
Boycotting Murree, and painting the whole Murree population with the same brush just because there were some rotten apples is simply preposterous.
Further, boycotting Murree, and painting the whole Murree population with the same brush just because there were some rotten apples is simply preposterous. Waqar Satti, the renowned journalist belonging to the same locality, brought home the same dilemma. According to Waqar, the entire business sector, restaurants and whatnot have been monopolized by the outsiders which include bigwigs from every power corridor, for ages. Locals, on the other hand, earn quite a small share, because they remain subordinate to outsiders. That doesn’t mean some of them didn’t milk the situation to their advantage they did but to digress from the main culprits, it was being blown out of proportion. Similarly, why do we forget that the same locals have been the perpetual victims of the bad governance coupled with extreme weather? Although the spot attracts a great number of tourists, very little has been made to improve its situation. Power shortage, almost non-availability of gas and blocked roads impeding any attempt to fetch daily ration, add to their suffering. Despite that, they opened their arms and doors to the tourists and assisted the stranded families with their limited resources.
Last and not least, why did some people survive the same situation when others lost their lives to? While some credited it to hypothermia (Prolonged exposure to cold resulting in death) others for all right reasons attributed it to Asphyxiation, after inhaling lethal gas Monoxide. Carbon Monoxide is considered to be one of the silent killers. The reason being odourless, it goes dangerously unnoticed, If inhaled, combined with the haemoglobin, it results in the formation of carboxyhemoglobin, which reduces the flow of oxygen to the body parts and causes severe seizure and eventually, death can occur. (details)
Apparently, the people who got stranded in the heavy snow left their engines on and shut every door. Additionally, snow blocked the exhaust pipes leaving no exist for the lethal gas to release, respectively, ambushing its victims and suffocating them to death at the spot. When the other survivors were asked about their response to the same catastrophe, they ascertained to have adopted a range of behaviour, for instance, left their car-door-glasses down to let air in, while kept vacating their vehicles after every couple of minutes. This is something crucial to know for every driver, yet rarely learned putting so many lives at stake. If not people, the government was supposed to issue these directions to let people know the very basics to save their lives in case the government could not reach them on time.
The government will have to get rid of this victim-blaming behaviour. Regardless of Public behaviour, it’s their responsibility to regulate traffic flow, the prices of commodities and slow down public mobility where it’s necessary. The Murree tragedy should be a critical point for the government to re-evaluate its course of direction.