The dead included eight members of the same family whose cars were engulfed in snow, government officials said.
At least 16 people were frozen to death after being trapped in snow in their cars as thousands of tourists arrived in the town of Murree in the mountains of Pakistan.
Troops have been mobilized to repair roads and rescue detainees, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said in a video on Saturday, adding: “At least 16 to 19 people have died in their vehicles.”
Atiq Ahmed, a Islamabad police officer, said eight of the 16 victims were the family of fellow Islamabad police officer Naveed Iqbal, who also died. All 16 died of hypothermia.
Prime Minister Imran Khan was horrified by the “tragic deaths” of foreigners. “We have directed him to investigate and enforce strict laws to prevent such accidents,” Khan said in a tweet.
Located 50km (22 km) north of the capital Islamabad, Murree is a popular winter destination that attracts more than one million visitors a year. Roads leading to the city are often blocked by snow in winter.
The videos distributed on TV showed all families, including children, sleeping in their snow-covered cars.
Heavy snow warnings
Snow, which began Tuesday night, continued from time to time, attracting thousands of visitors. Due to overcrowding, many families lost their homes on the streets.
“This is an example of systematic failure because, according to reports, about 100,000 vehicles go up mountainous terrain, with narrow roads,” said Kamal Hyder of Al Jazeera, from Islamabad.
“There were heavy snow warnings and that led to a major disaster because people were trapped in their cars, all families. Their vehicles were covered with snow piles.”
Ahmed, the interior minister, said more than 1.2 m (4 m) of snow fell in the area overnight and all oncoming traffic was closed on Saturday. He said troops and a special mountaineering team had been called in to assist.
“Until then no vehicles or pedestrians were allowed to enter the Murree except emergency vehicles and those delivering food to the remaining people,” he said.
Umar Maqbool, a local superintendent, said the snow had disrupted the night rescue operation and even heavy equipment brought in to clear the snow was stuck.
Authorities did not comment on the number of people killed in the crash, but said they were working to rescue and rescue them. Food and bedding were provided for homeless guests.
The Punjab provincial prime minister’s office said Murree had been described as a “disaster zone” and urged people not to leave.