Heaviest Snowfall in 40 Years Paralyses Life In Kashmir

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People repair electricity line after heavy snowfall in Srinagar on Thursday, Jan 16, 2020. Photo: Abid Bhat / KO

SRINAGAR – Life remained affected for the fourth consecutive day on Thursday due to fresh snowfall during the past 24 hours in Srinagar, heaviest after 40 years.

“Snowfall during the past 24 hours was heaviest after 40 years in summer capital, Srinagar,” officials said on Thursday.

This was the first winter in Srinagar after Jammu and Kashmir became Union Territory (UT) in August. Very less people and vehicles could be seen on the roads today, when entire city was under a carpet of snow.

Srinagar had turned white due to fresh over one foot of snowfall as people woke up on Thursday morning. Roof of houses and vehicles and treetops besides roads and open field were under a carpet of snow.

The Mechanical Engineering Department (MED) has pressed into service machines since early this morning to clear the snow. “Snow on majority main roads has been cleared,” officials said.

The Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) claimed that men and machinery have also been pressed into service from 0700 hrs to clear snow on inner roads, lanes and bylanes in the city.

However, people alleged that few inches of snow remain on road after machines are clearing snow which often gets frozen and result in slippery conditions. “There is no snow clearance operation in majority inner roads and lanes and by-lanes in the city,” they alleged.

They said for the past four days SMC workers are not collecting garbage and other waste material from houses.

Very less number of vehicles were seen plying on city roads today. Drivers were driving their vehicles very slowly to avoid accidents due to slippery road conditions. Vehicles which were parked on main roads only could hit the streets as inner roads remained snow covered.

Majority shops and business establishments were closed. However, shops selling “Hareesa” a famous winter dish made by meat in Kashmir, witnessed heavy rush since early this morning as people believe it keeps them warm.

People are resuming their normal business and other activities very late in the morning and close early in the evening. Meanwhile, students, including girls, could be seen covering the snow bound slippery roads on foot to reach their tuition and coaching centres.

The minimum temperature in Srinagar was minus 0.8 degree, a Met department spokesman said.

Despite improvement of 4 degree in the night temperature from Wednesday, world famous ski resort of Gulmarg was the coldest place in the valley at minus 5.2 degree. However, people woke up to a sunny Thursday morning though ice cold winds continued in the resort, where the ski slopes are covered under several feet of snow. The slopes in Kongdori and Apharwat, the highest point of the cable car project in Gulmarg, are also under several feet of snow.

The night temperature at Qazigund, gateway to the valley, Kupwara in north Kashmir and tourist resort of Kokernag settled at minus 0.6 degree, minus 1.5 degree and minus 2.4 degree, respectively.

Meanwhile, Air traffic resumed today after remaining suspended on Wednesday due to heavy snowfall at Srinagar International Airport, where all morning flights were cancelled.

“Air traffic was resumed in the afternoon at Srinagar airport after snow was cleared from the runway and improvement in the visibility,” an official of airport said today.

However, he said morning flight had to be cancelled, despite good visibility, as the runway was under 1.5 feet of snow. “It took several hours to clear about 1.5 feet of snow from the runway,” he said.

7000 Vehicles Stranded On Banihal Highway

Fresh landslides have struck the Jammu-Srinagar Highway which remained closed for the fourth consecutive day on Thursday, leaving over 7000 vehicles stranded.

Landslides have hit the highway at five places in Ramban district, a police officer said.

On the intervening night of Wednesday and Thursday, fresh landslides took place in Digdol, Monkey Morh, Moumpassi, Pathiyal and Chanderkote, he said.

Men and machines are working to clear the highway of the landslides but continuous landslides and shooting stones are making clearing operations difficult.

Snowfall on Kashmir side of the highway since Sunday has resulted in blockade of the highway.

As a result of the blockade of the highway, over 7000 vehicles are stranded at various places en route from Lakhanpur in Kathua district to Banihal belt of Ramban district and also on the Kashmir side.

With the highway closed for the fourth day, stranded truck drivers said they have run out of money to buy food and urged the government to come to their aid.

They said the government has not made any arrangement for setting up community kitchens for them.

They also urged the government to reopen the highway at the earliest so that they can move towards Jammu as they have been stranded on the Kashmir side for five-six days.

Soldier Killed, Many Injured In Drass Avalanche

A soldier was killed and several others injured on Thursday when a Avalanche hit an Army camp at Drass, the second coldest place in the world, in Union Territory Ladakh.

A massive avalanche engulfed an Army camp at Mushkoo valley in Drass. Immediately, a search and rescue operation was launched to find the missing soldiers missing, official sources said.

Several soldiers were rescued from beneath the snow. “The injured were immediately taken to a hospital, where one of them identified as Dharmendra Singh succumbed”, sources said.

The operation was still going on when the reports last came in.

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