A tourist trapped in her car for hours by unprecedented snowfall in Pakistan has described how she “saw death” in front of her as she waited for help.

Samina was in one of the thousands who rushed to view the winter snowfall in the hilltop town of Murree.

But a blizzard on Friday had felled trees and blocked roads in and out of the town just north of the capital.

Around 1,000 vehicles became stranded, and at least 22 people died, including two large families.

Samina told the BBC she had left her home at 16:00 local time to travel to Murree, but soon found herself among those trapped in the snow. Pictures and videos posted on social media showed stranded cars bumper to bumper, with snow piled on their roofs.

“I could see death in front of me,” Samina said. “It was like there were snow peaks built around our car… I can’t explain in words what I was going through.

“We were praying God may help us and we shouldn’t perish in a snowstorm.”

According to Tariq Ullah, an official in the nearby town of Nathiagali, the blizzard dumped up to 1.5m (5ft) of snow within just a few hours.

“It was unprecedented,” he told the AFP news agency. “There were strong winds, uprooted trees, avalanches. People around were terrified.”

Samina was finally rescued at 10:00 the next morning, spending the night in one of the shelters set up in the resort town, which sits at 2,300 metres (7,500 feet) above sea level.

But among those who died were 10 children, emergency services said, as well as two families of five and eight.

Authorities said eight people froze to death, while asphyxiation after inhaling fumes while trying to keep warm in their vehicles has been given as a possible reason for the others.

Questions are now being asked about how this was allowed to happen.

“We didn’t get any type of alert from society, from the government, from Google, from the news, from the weather,” Duaa Kashif Ali, a tourist from Islamabad, told AFP.

She and 13 other family members and friends abandoned their cars and walked about a mile (1.5km) to a guesthouse where they found shelter.

According to the BBC’s Farhat Javed – who is in Murree – there is space for about 5,000 cars in the town. However on Friday, 100,000 visitors had been allowed to enter, causing a massive traffic jam as they struggled through the deep snow.

Vehicles were abandoned on the roads, and emergency workers – who were first made aware of the problem on Friday morning – told the BBC their own response was slowed by the traffic jams.

The Punjab provincial government said there would be a full investigation into whether there was a failure to act on severe weather warnings.

“A high-level inquiry will be launched and if there is any kind of negligence, then action will be taken against all those involved,” spokesman Hasaan Khawar said.

But this will not happen before the roads to Murree – which was built by the British in the 19th Century as a medical base for its colonial troops – are cleared.

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