Day 6 And Counting: Highway Shut, Shortage Of Essentials Looms In Kashmir

SRINAGAR — The arterial Jammu-Srinagar highway remained closed for the sixth day on Monday as a fresh landslide hampered  efforts to reopen the thoroughfare, officials said, leading to a crisis-like situation in the Kashmir valley due to shortage of essentials.

A massive landslide hit the 270-km-long highway at Maroog on Sunday afternoon shortly after 150 Srinagar-bound stranded vehicles were allowed to move towards Banihal from Ramban, they said.

When the vehicles crossed Maroog, a huge landslide occurred, leaving the highway blocked, the officials said, adding, the agency concerned immediately deployed men and machines to clear the debris and efforts to clear the road are still going on.

A state disaster response force (SDRF) vehicle installed near the site for lighting purpose was hit by shooting stones on Sunday night, forcing suspension of the clearance operation, they said.

The vehicle suffered some damage but no one was injured in the incident, the officials said, adding that the road clearance operation at the scene besides Panthiyal and Kella morh resumed on Monday morning.

The highway was closed for vehicular traffic on Wednesday following heavy snowfall and incessant rains which triggered avalanches and landslides at various places between Qazigund-Banihal-Ramban stretch including Jawahar Tunnel - the gateway to the Kashmir valley, they notified.

Many stranded vehicles are carrying essential supplies for the landlocked valley. Due to the non-availability of essentials a crisis situation has arisen there.

In addition to severe shortages of edibles like vegetables, poultry products, mutton, there is shortage of petroleum products as well.

Authorities were forced to order rationing of petroleum products till the supply position improves.

Airfare between the valley and outside has skyrocketed after the closure of the highway on February 6, with series of avalanches hitting Jammu and Kashmir in various spots.

The stranded vehicles would be given priority once the clearance operation is completed, official said.

Hundreds of Kashmir-bound passengers, stranded in Jammu, have been regularly holding protest demanding their airlifting to the Valley.

The protesters rued that they are running short of money and are facing immense problems due to lack of proper lodging and boarding facilities.

They have alleged that some hoteliers and shopkeepers are fleecing them, taking undue advantage of the situation.

Meanwhile, in view of the closure of the highway, the Governor administration has directed for maintaining adequate stock of food grains, LPG, kerosene, petroleum products and other essentials commodities in Kashmir and Jammu divisions, especially in snow-bound areas.

Khurshid Ahmad Ganai, adviser to the Governor, has directed for review of the stock and supply position for both divisions and ensuring adequate availability of essential commodities in snow-bound and remote and inaccessible areas.

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