At least 21 people died after they were trapped in their vehicle due to heavy snow near the hilltop town of Murree in northern Pakistan, Dawn reported on Saturday. The deceased include nine children.

The police said at least six people had frozen to death in their cars, reported BBC. However, it was not yet clear how the others had died.

The military and the police are trying to clear the roads and rescue those still trapped. Over 1,000 vehicles are trapped, said Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid.

Tourists started getting stranded on a highway during a blizzard since Friday. Over 1 lakh cars had entered Murree, a mountain resort town north of Islamabad, in last few days to see the unusually heavy snowfall. The weather department had predicted heavy snowfall in Murree and Galiyat from January 6 to 9.

“God willing, we will rescue 1,000 cars by evening today,” said Ahmed. “We have decided to stop people [travelling] on foot as well. It is no time for [pedestrian] tourists to visit.”

The authorities have declared the area as a disaster zone and calamity hit. Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar imposed a state of emergency in hospitals, police stations, administration offices and rescue services.

Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed sorrow and regret over the deaths in Murree and ordered an inquiry. He added that the district administration was “caught unprepared” due to “unprecedented snowfall and rush of people proceeding without checking weather conditions”.

Entry of cars into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Galiyat has been banned too, according to the province’s Chief Minister Mahmood Khan. He added that stranded tourists were rescued and shifted to rest houses and hotels.

“Galiyat Development Authority, Rescue 1122 and local administration have been put on high alert to deal with any untoward situation,” he said.