The government in Pakistan has come under fire for "victim blaming" and negligence after 22 tourists trapped in their cars during a blizzard perished in a popular tourist destination.
The dead included a police officer and seven members of his family, as well as 10 children.
Some of them froze to death while others lost their lives to carbon monoxide poisoning, authorities said.
Videos on social media over the weekend showed people stuck in cars covered in snow on roads in a hill town about 24 miles from the capital Islamabad.
In one of the last recorded phone calls, the police officer Naveed Iqbal can be heard saying: “There are children in all the cars trapped here. They are crying. There hasn’t been any food or water since morning, the children are in a poor condition.”
Some people have blamed the tourist town's authorities for the terrible incident.
“It was my worst experience. The management of this area, they are responsible for all of us,” Aafia Ali, a tourist from Karachi, told Dawn News.
Over the past few days, more than 100,000 cars were allowed to pass through highway toll plazas to enter Murree in Punjab province, despite emergency weather warnings, VICE reports.
Officials have blamed the disaster on the large number of tourists entering the town.
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Prime Minister Imran Khan wrote: “Shocked and upset at tragic deaths of tourists on road to Murree. Unprecedented snowfall and rush of people proceeding without checking weather conditions caught the district admin unprepared. Have ordered inquiry and putting in place strong regulation to ensure prevention of such tragedies.”
The response from the government has been heavily criticised by opposition leaders, journalists and social media users.
Many people have accused the government of "victim blaming” and of not taking responsibility for their lapses in tourist regulation and disaster management.
Opposition politician Shehbaz Sharif said in a national assembly meeting: “This was a criminal act of negligence and inefficiency, and cannot be pardoned. When the Met Office had warned of excessive snowfall, what measures did the government take?
“They said that the administration was not prepared. If that was the case, then what are you there for? Resign and go home.”
Members of opposition parties have called for the formation of an independent judicial inquiry into the events preceding the deaths.
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