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Snowstorm kills at least 22, including 10 children, on Pakistani highway after thousands are trapped in cars

At least 22 tourists died in freezing temperatures after being stranded in their vehicles in northern Pakistan on Jan. 8. (Video: Reuters)
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At least 10 children are among the dead Saturday after a snowstorm near a Pakistani resort town stranded thousands in their vehicles overnight on a highway in the country’s northeast.

So far, 22 people — 10 men, 10 children and two women — had been found dead, most from hypothermia, Atiq Ahmed, an Islamabad police officer, told the Associated Press, after thick snow fell fast near Murree, a popular vacation destination in the mountains about 40 miles northeast of the capital. Eight of them were from the family of a fellow officer Ahmed identified as Naveed Iqbal, who he said also died in the cold.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted that he was “shocked & upset” at the deaths of the tourists after an “unprecedented snowfall.”

Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said at least 1,000 vehicles were still stranded on the snow-covered mountain roads, where he said more than 4 feet fell overnight. He added that troops including a military mountain unit had been called in to help evacuate people. He had announced a lower death toll in a video message: “16 to 19 deaths have occurred in their cars,” Reuters reported.

“No vehicle or even people on foot are allowed to enter Murree except for the emergency and rescue vehicles and those bringing food for the stuck people,” Ahmed said.

As Afghanistan’s harsh winter sets in, many are forced to choose between food and warmth

The Punjab provincial government tweeted that it had declared a state of emergency while administrators said food and blankets were being distributed to those who were stranded.

On Wednesday, Pakistan’s national Meteorological Department forecast “heavy snowfall” in the Murree area and cautioned authorities to be alert during the week.

In neighboring Afghanistan, snow and freezing temperatures in Kabul are also threatening large parts of the population. The rising cost of fuel to heat homes, a lack of adequate shelters and harsh winter weather could leave millions of already vulnerable Afghans at risk, aid groups have warned.

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