Kashmir Highway Closed Again, Mughal Road Remains Shut

Srinagar - The national highway, the only all weather road connecting Kashmir valley with the rest of the country, was again closed on Saturday due to fresh landslides, triggered by rain.

Meanwhile, the historic 86-km-long Mughal road, linking Shopian in south Kashmir with Rajouri and Poonch in Jammu region, remained closed due to heavy snowfall since November 6.

Traffic on Srinagar-Jammu national highway was closed early this morning following landslides between Ramban and Ramsu, a traffic police official told UNI.

He said the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) and Beacon, responsible for widening and maintaining the highway, have pressed into service sophisticated machines and men to put through the highway. "However, due to shooting stones and continued landslides, road clearance operation was getting hampered," he said.

He said once a green signal is received from the traffic police officials posted at different places, only stranded vehicles will be allowed to move towards their respective destinations. "Once the stranded vehicles are cleared, fresh one-way traffic will be allowed on the highway," he said.

The highway, the only lifeline of Kashmir, often gets closed due to landslides and shooting stones since NHAI started widening of the road. However, traffic on the highway also gets disrupted due to snowfall during winter.

The frequent closure of the highway leads to shortage of essentials, particularly fresh vegetables and other essentials in the valley, where prices of essentials besides airfare also witness sharp increase when the highway closes.

A massive snow clearance operation was going on to put through the Mughal road, which witnessed fresh snowfall during the past 36 hours.

Snow clearance operation was badly affected due to fresh snowfall, official said, adding it may take some more days to allow traffic provided there is no more snow. The road, which is seen as alternative to Srinagar-Jammu national highway, remained closed during winter months due to heavy snowfall.

150 truckers, others rescued from Srinagar-Leh highway

About 150 truckers and others were rescued during a day-long operation from different places on 434-km-long Srinagar-Leh national highway, the only road connecting Union Territory (UT) of Ladakh with Kashmir, which is closed since Thursday following heavy snowfall.

Meanwhile, a senior police officer and an official of Border Roads Organisation (BRO) had a narrow escape after an avalanche hit the area when they were supervising rescue operation in Zojila pass on Friday.

Besides over two to three feet of fresh snowfall was witnessed on Zojila pass, India gate and Zero point, where about a dozen snow avalanches occurred on Srinagar-Leh highway during the past 24 hours.

The road is still closed and BRO has already put into service sophisticated machines and men to put through the highway, officials told UNI this morning.

However, they said, continued snowfall and avalanches have hampered highway opening process.

Officials said about 180 trucks got struck at different places on Zojila pass, the most avalanche prone area on the highway. The District Administration of Ganderbal besides police and BRO during day-long operation on Friday rescued about 150 truckers and others and brought them to Sonmarg in central Kashmir district of Ganderbal till late in the night.

However, truckers remained stranded in Zojila, they said, adding some snow clearance machines also got struck there (Zojila). Hundreds of passengers and truckers were also rescued on Thursday.

There were about a dozen snow avalanches at different places on the highway, hampering snow clearance operation during the past 36 hours. "The BRO has again started snow clearance operation despite avalanche threat," they said.

The highway, the only road connecting Ladakh with Kashmir, remained closed for six months during winter due to below freezing temperature and accumulation of snow since November 1 every year. However, for the past few years due to efforts of the local administration and BRO, highway now remains open in the month of December also till there is heavy snowfall.

Earlier, the Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, was taking decision to close the highway for winter months. However, since Ladakh has now become an independent Union Territory (UT), decision to close or reopen the highway will have to be taken by administration in UT Ladakh and Kashmir.

Officials said Lt Governor R K Mathur chaired a high level meeting at Leh on Srinagar-Leh highway in which senior officers from Ganderbal administration, police and traffic took part.

The meeting was informed that the highway will remain open until there is risk of accidents due to heavy snowfall and slippery road conditions below freezing temperature.

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