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Snowstorm takes 21 lives in Murree, Pakistan

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Snowstorm takes 21 lives in Murree, Pakistan

Murree, Pakistan was declared a calamity-hit area on Saturday by the government after 21 people died while stranded on roads amid heavy snowfall and traffic jams. Among those who lost their lives were assistant sub-inspector of the Islamabad police and seven members of his family. According to a list released by Rescue 1122 (Pakistan’s emergency Service) individuals who died in the tragedy included nine children.

The Pakistan Meteorological Department had predicted heavy snowfall in Murree and Galiyat from 6th to 9th January. With the heavy snowfall in Murree from Tuesday to Friday, unprecedented flow of tourists took place towards Murree and onwards to Galiyat compared to what has been seen in the last 15-20 years. Approximately 140,000 cars entered the city during the last week.   

Prime Minister Imran Khan expressing his sorrow at the incident tweeted, “Shocked & upset at tragic deaths of tourists on road to Murree.” He added, “Unprecedented snowfall & rush of [people] proceeding without checking weather conditions caught district admin unprepared.”

As per the local news, personnel from the Pakistan Army, Rangers and Frontier Corps have been deployed to help civil institutions cope with the situation. Government of Punjab tweeted that an “emergency” has been declared in all the important departments including police, administration, Rescue 1122, and hospitals, 

People walked out of the stuck cars in the extreme conditions. Locals also came to assist on Friday night and distributed help in the shape of food or blankets. The government has announced that local rest houses and shelters are open for tourists to warm up and rest.  

Around 23,000 vehicles have been evacuated safely from Murree while around 1,000 were still stranded. Further snowstorms were expected on Saturday night and rescue operations were facing challenges due to the night and weather related conditions on the ground. 

Entry to Murree and onwards to Galiyat in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province has been banned by the local government except for rescue or in emergency. Entry on foot has been banned as well. 

The exact cause of these unfortunate deaths is not confirmed yet. It could be due to extreme cold temperatures or due to carbon monoxide poisoning from heating in the cars while under heavy snow. 

Murree is a town in Punjab which is around a two hour drive from the nation’s capital. It has an average altitude of 2,291 meters and a population of 30,000. Due to heavy snow, locals are also feared to be facing shortages of clean drinking water as water pipes are freezing up.

It is feared that the influx of tourists to the hill station was way more than usual and what the local setup in the given resources could handle. Early warnings of overcrowding on the road were not taken seriously by people who kept coming, including day visitors. It is hoped that with proper planning in the future, such incidents could be avoided. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Education

New diet, New you! – In Focus

Every year there is a new diet, a new fad. Have you chosen your diet plan for this year? Should you pick a specific type of diet or is there a better way? This week we go In Focus with Toral Shah, Nutritional Scientist & Functional Medicine practitioner. She is the founder of theurbankitchen.co.uk @UrbanKitchen on Twitter. Come learn the best ways to manage your diet and how to make it sustainable and long lasting. We also tackle gut health, vitamins, and your gym membership. Its all here, so keep your eyes peeled!

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All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Environment

Tonga volcano eruption sends warning of tsunami to Japan and USA

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After the volcanic eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano, the shores of Japan and the USA are at risk of a tsunami. The underwater volcano erupted on Saturday 15th January 2022 and is causing ripples across the South Pacific coast.

The volcano erupted about 30 kilometers southeast of Tonga’s Fonuafo’ou Island twice, first on Friday and then later on Saturday. The volcano resulted in ash, gas, and steam reaching about 20 kilometers into the air. It also caused huge waves of more than a metre to crash into Tonga while many parts of the country are covered in ash. This also led to the blackout of power lines, phone lines, and also the internet. Not only that, there have been a lot of traffic jams in the country as people are fleeing the low-lying areas, leading to more disorder. 

Along with Japan and the USA, many South Pacific islands are experiencing large waves crashing into coastal homes. This has led Japan and the USA to advise people near the coast to move away as precautionary actions. Japan has issued a warning of waves reaching about three meters, to hit the southern part of the country, specifically the Amami islands where a 1.2m tsunami is already recorded. The high waves have not caused any harm yet, however, the Japan Meteorological Agency urged people to not go near the sea until all tsunami warnings are lifted.  In the briefing, the Japan Meteorological Agency official also stated “we do not know yet whether these (waves) are actually tsunami.” Moreover, the sound of the volcano could be heard in the Fiji Island of Japan as “loud thunder sounds” for around eight minutes. This island is 800km away from the source of the eruption leading to the Fiji government issuing a tsunami advisory and opening evacuation centers.

The volcano was heard in New Zealand as well which is pretty unusual since New Zealand is more than 2000 kilometers away. The GNS Science volcanologist Geoff Kilgour said “people hearing these sorts of sounds from so far away is very rarely recorded, it is only a few times in history,” adding that this explosion was “by far the most violent eruption that we have seen in some time.” Prof Shane Cronin, a volcanologist at the University of Auckland also shared her opinion, “this is a pretty big event – it’s one of the more significant eruptions of the last decade at least,” she said. This is of course a very big and rare event that will be remembered for many years to come. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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