Chitral Today
Latest Updates and Breaking News. Editor: Zar Alam Khan.

Lowari road closed, passengers stranded after heavy snowfall

CHITRAL: Hundreds of passengers were stranded after the Chitral-Dir road was blocked on Lowari due to heavy snowfall early on Monday. 

The Lower Chitral police said that about two feet of snowfall on both sides of the Lowari tunnel had blocked the road for all types of traffic. 

According to reports, a large number of passengers were stranded between the tunnel and Upper Dir early on Monday with no one from the NHA in sight to help in removing the snow.

Chitral police personnel were trying to remove snow from the road near the tunnel, but the passengers urged the NHA to mobilize its machinery to reopen the road. Different areas in Lower and Upper Chitral also received snowfall with the Met Office forecasting more wet spell till February 20.

Meanwhile, Shahzada Sirajul Mulk has to say this on social media at 11:15 am on Feb 19, 2024: 

“NHA machinery has arrived and are clearing the snow but it looks like too little too late. I am now being told that some of these vehicles are stuck there since 2am. So as I write these people have been inside these vehicles stuck in deep snow since the past nine hours with no hope even now of being recovered soon. There is total chaos at the site. Desperate women and children need to leave these vehicles sooner than later but there is no help in sight.”

NHA work is being hampered by a long line of vehicles which have got themselves stuck because they did not bother to put chains on their tyres and tried to break traffic rules by overtaking vehicles instead of keeping to their lane. The same thing was being done by traffic from the opposite direction. The situation at this moment looks like a mass grave of vehicles with people in them who are alive but helpless. It is now no longer an NHA job.

The whole state machinery has to come into action. The most capable organisation equipped to deal with this approaching disaster is the Pakistan Army. Units at Dir and Chitral should immediately come into action with their manpower cranes dozers etc. Helicopters should remain at standby to takeoff the moment weather allows. I am in touch with people on their cell phones I am asking them to preserve their battery charge. My own vehicle has enough diesel to provide heating to passengers for the next five hours (or even more) but what about the hundreds of other vehicles some with insufficient or no heating?

NHA. 

1. This bottleneck at Minakhur along with another such bottle neck near Abshar hotel on the Dir road have been criminally ( extra l’s put purposely) since the past so many years. They are the only two portions of the paved road from Dir to Lowari tunnel which for no good reason remain kacha. Every winter during snowfalls these two places become death traps for people travelling between Dir and Chitral.

2. NHA leases out snow clearing to contractors at lucrative terms but such contractors only have primitive tractors which are of no use when the situation becomes critical. Even during normal snow fall it takes a real effort to get such contractors to start their work at the site. 90% of public vehicles in Chitral ply at night when it is difficult to give a wakeup call to these contractors. NHA must step beyond these useless contractors and have their own teams equipped with proper snow clearing equipment who should routinely move to these two bottle necks (and also at the bottleneck at Baradam on the Chitral side of the tunnel) when ever the snow starts falling.

3. NHA must have an emergency phone number (like the 130 on the motorway) which should be for commuters on the Dir- Chitral road and should be widely publicised on the roadside as well as the social media.

4. Without further delay the un constructed portion of the Lowari road at Baradam, Minakhur and Abshar hotel must be constructed on an emergency basis in 2024. This should be top priority for both the Federal as well as the Provincial governments.

COMMISSIONER MALAKAND

1. Must instruct the Dir and Chitral police through DIG Malakand that from 01 Nov to 01 April no vehicle should be allowed to ply on the road between Dir and Chitral which are not in possession of wheel chains.

2. Properly equipped traffic police with warm clothing torches etc must be stationed at these three bottlenecks to strictly enforce traffic rules.

The biggest cause of trouble at such times is not the snow. It is the chaos caused by unregulated traffic.

2. Rescue 1122 must have a presence at the Lowari tunnel to come to the help of people stuck in such a disastrous situation.

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