4 Army jawans among 5 killed, avalanches death toll rises to 20

Snow avalanche in Gurez and damage caused by it to Army post. Another pic on Page 6.
Snow avalanche in Gurez and damage caused by it to Army post. Another pic on Page 6.

*NH closed, Air traffic resumes

Fayaz Bukhari
Srinagar, Jan 27: Four Army personnel were among five persons killed in avalanches today taking the toll to 20 for last three days while as divisional administration in Kashmir warned of fresh avalanches in the hills.
Four more bodies of Army soldiers have been recovered today from North Kashmir’s Gurez sector adding the death toll of Army personnel killed in two avalanches in Gurez 14. Ten bodies of the soldiers were recovered by the Army rescue team yesterday.
A man was killed as avalanche hit Lachipora area of Uri in North Kashmir’s Baramulla district today. Fateh Mohammad Mughal, 60, was buried under snow avalanches and his body was later recovered.
Avalanches hit hills of Kashmir after heavy snowfall for last three days However, since last night, the snow has stopped but threat of avalanches has increased.
There was unprecedented snowfall in North Kashmir since 2006. Gulmarg received 6 feet, Tangmarg 3 feet, Tanghdar one feet, Sadna 5 feet, Keran 2.6 feet, Furkiyan 5 feet, Macchil 3 feet, Z-Gali 5.6 feet, Kupwara one feet, Lolab 1.6 feet, Kralpora 1.6 feet, Chowkibal around 2 feet, Bandipora 5 inches, Razdhan Pass 11 feet,  Tulail 13 feet and Z-more 9 feet of snowfall for last three days.
The divisional administration Kashmir today issued a high danger avalanche warning for next 24 hours for hilly and avalanche prone areas in Kashmir.
“High danger avalanche warning valid for next 24-hours from January 27 to January 28, 2017 (1700 hrs) exists for avalanche prone slopes in Kupwara, Bandipora, Baramulla, Ganderbal, Kulgam and Budgam and Kargil districts of Kashmir division,” a statement of the divisional administration said.
“Deputy Commissioners of Kashmir division including Leh and Kargil have been asked to take precautionary measures in their respective districts and advise people not to venture in avalanche prone areas and to keep clearing snow depositions from roof tops of their houses and bunkers to avoid damages”, the statement added.
Srinagar based Defence spokesman, Colonel Rajesh Kalia, said here that an avalanche struck Army camp in Gurez Sector on 25th January, in which 10 Army personnel of 51 RR were killed and their bodies were recovered yesterday and four, who were missing, their bodies were recovered today.
Colonel Kalia said: “Rescue operations were immediately launched in extreme bad weather and heavy snowfall. 10 bodies were recovered yesterday while rest four on today morning”.
“As we know, the weather in Kashmir over the past few days has been rough and the last 72 hours have witnessed very heavy snowfall and thus accumulation of heavy volume of snow in the higher reaches. Army, deployed in difficult areas all along the Line of Control,   has a post near Mahazgund village in Gurez Valley which was struck by an avalanche at around 5 PM on 25th January 17 in which three shelters were buried under the snow trapping seven soldiers”, said the spokesman.
“Swift action by a few soldiers at the post and timely help of the villagers of Mahazgund ensured saving of six soldiers.  Unfortunately, three soldiers could not be saved whose bodies were retrieved on 26th January   by the Avalanche Rescue Teams that were rushed to the post. At approximately the same time,   a patrol of one Junior Commissioned Officer and 10 Other Ranks was caught in a massive avalanche near Niru in Gurez Valley in which all the 11 soldiers were trapped”, he added.
“Concerted efforts of the specially equipped Avalanche Rescue Teams which have continued despite the inhospitable terrain and weather conditions and further avalanche warnings, have led to recovery of mortal remains of all our comrades, who were part of this patrol. Arrangements are in place to carry the mortal remains of the martyrs to their respective native places immediately on clearance of the weather conditions”.
After improvement in weather, Air traffic resumed today as flights landed at the Srinagar International airport after three days much to the relief of thousands of passengers stranded due to suspension of flight operations at Srinagar Airport.
But Jammu-Srinagar National continued to be shut due to heavy snowfall and rains that have triggered avalanches and slides blocking it at several places. A traffic police official said that no traffic will be allowed on the NH tomorrow.
“The recent rain/snowfall and triggering of landslides/ shooting stones caused damage to the existing road formation at various places of NHW viz. Karol, Mehar, Seeri, Battery Cheshma, Gangroo and Digdol areas. Further, the triggering of snow avalanche at Shaitani nallah resulted in blockade of road at the said location. In view of the above and keeping in view slippery condition of road especially from Ramsoo to Nowgam and Zig to Jawahar Tunnel, no fresh movement of traffic shall be allowed on Jammu-Srinagar NHW tomorrow on 28.01.2017. However, in case weather permitted and after the road is made traffic worthy, the vehicles stranded on NHW in between Udhampur and Banihal shall be cleared and allowed to proceed towards their respective destinations”, the official said.
“Commuters are requested/ advised not to park/halt vehicles between Jawahar Tunnel South portal to Nowgam village and between Jawahar Tunnel North portal to Lower Munda under any circumstances. These areas being dangerous and avalanche zones should be kept free from any kind of traffic. People are requested to contact TCU Srinagar (01942450022, 2485386), TCU Ramban (9419993745) and TCU Jammu (01912459048) and officers of Traffic wing to get the status of the road”, the spokesman added.
Ten residential houses were damaged due to heavy snow fall in Kashmir. In Sopore, two residential houses belonging to Ghulam Ahmad Dar and Abdul Hamid residents of Ladoora got damaged after a tree fell on them due to snow fall.
In Kupwara, a joint residential house of Bashir Ahmad Kar and Asha Begum residents of Tikipora got damaged due to heavy snow fall. In Budgam, building of Government Middle School Sapplan and old building of Primary School Dalwash got damaged due to heavy snow fall.
In Kulgam, four residential houses belonging to Ghulam Hassan Gojri resident of Gujjar Basi Avil, Mushtaq Ahmad Ganie, Ghulam Mohi-ud-din Baba residents of K.B Pora and Ghulam Rasool Magray resident of Watto got damaged to due heavy snow fall. Besides, a Government Middle School Hakradan and a residential house belonging to Dilshada resident of Nigenpora in the jurisdiction of Police Station Qazigund were damaged due to snow fall.
SSP Kupwara, Shamsher Hussian said that many interior roads of the District Kupwara are still closed due to heavy snowfall. “Police personnel are extending helping hands wherever required. Today morning one serious patient namely Ghulam Mohi Din R/o Kunan was shifted to the District hospital by a party of Police Station Trehgam after trekking about six kms distance on foot. On the instruction of SSP Kupwara Shamsheer Hussain many police personnel were found clearing snow from bus stands and interior lanes and bylanes of Kupwara town as the people were facing great difficulties. People of the Kupwara town have eulogized the efforts of District Police Kupwara for mitigating the suffering of common commuters”, he said.
A police spokesman said that police provided helping hand in South Kashmir’s Pahalgam and Kokernag areas of Anantnag District by shifting two stranded pregnant ladies to hospital.
“Anantnag police received an information that a pregnant lady Dilshada wife of Bashir Ahmad resident of Aaroo, Pahalgam who is stranded at her home due to heavy snow fall needs immediate evacuation to hospital. On receiving this information SDPO Pahalgam Muzaffar Hussain constituted a team headed by SHO Police Station Pahalgam Tariq Ahmad Khan’, the spokesman said.
The team cleared the snow on about four kilometres of road from Pahalgam to Aaroo and crossed eight kilometres by foot to reach the spot. The woman was safely shifted to Pahalgam hospital for treatment.
Another phone call was received by Police Station Kokernag that a pregnant lady Masooda Jan wife  of Mohammd Altaf Wani resident of Panzgam Kokernag is stranded on road who was on way to Kokernag hospital.
On this information, a team was constituted by Kokernag police and MED employees. The team cleared the snow on the road and shifted the lady to Kokernag Hospital”, the spokesman said.
Meanwhile, Governor N N Vohra has expressed grief over the tragic loss of Major Amit Sagar, when an avalanche struck the Territorial Army Camp in Sonamarg area, and 10 soldiers after 10 avalanches hit Army posts and patrols in Gurez Sector in North Kashmir.
The Governor spoke to Lt. General J.S Sandhu, GOC 15 Corps, to convey his sympathy to the families of the officer and soldiers and wished early recovery of the soldiers who had been buried under the snow. In fact the Governor had spoken with Lt. Gen. Sandhu only yesterday about the Davar Brigade providing the maximum possible help to the villagers in the Gurez Valley who were facing severe difficulties because of the very heavy snow in the area.
Expressing grief over the loss of civilian lives in another avalanche in the Tulail area,  the Governor conveyed sympathy to the family members of those killed and prayed for peace to the departed souls.
The Raj Bhavan Spokesperson said that the Governor has re-iterated his earlier concern about the crucial importance of the Divisional and District Administrations issuing timely warnings to the public and to all concerned echelons on the basis of forecasts and avalanche warnings which are received everyday from the Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE) and Indian Meteorological Department.
The spokesperson also re-iterated the Governor’s concern about the need to have a functioning Disaster Management set-up in every district of the State to ensure against avoidable loss of life and property.
Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti has also expressed shock and grief over the death of soldiers who were buried alive at Gurez, when two snow avalanches hit them. She has also conveyed her sympathies with the families of these soldiers.
Mehbooba has directed the divisional and district administrations to coordinate with the Army authorities and speed up rescue operations for tracing the other missing soldiers.
The Chief Minister has also directed the Bandipora district administration to ensure that all precautionary measures are taken in avalanche prone areas, particularly in Gurez to avoid any fatalities.
Senior Congress leader, and AICC general secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad has expressed his heartfelt condolences on the tragic death of 10 Army jawans in Gurez Sector.
This tragic incident has shocked the whole nation. On one hand, the country was preparing to celebrate its Republic Day and these brave souls were gaurding the borders without fearing for their life. I salute their sacrifice,” said Azad.
Deputy Chief Minister, Dr Nirmal Singh, has also expressed profound grief and sorrow over the tragic death of Major Amit Sagar and 10 soldiers in snow avalanches which struck the Territorial Army Camp in Sonamarg area and army posts and patrols in Gurez Sector in north Kashmir.
The Deputy Chief Minister also expressed grief over the killing of civilians in another snow avalanche occurred in Tulail area and conveyed sympathies to the bereaved families and prayed for eternal peace to the departed souls.