Fresh snowfall in Kashmir; NH closed, air traffic disrupted

A view of fresh snowfall at Gulmarg on Saturday.
A view of fresh snowfall at Gulmarg on Saturday.

*Traffic restored on Doda-Kishtwar, Bhaderwah roads

Fayaz Bukhari/
Gopal Sharma

SRINAGAR/JAMMU, Jan 28: The Weatherman had forecast dry weather for a week, but the remnants of the Western Disturbance today brought fresh snowfall in Kashmir disrupting normal life, air traffic and efforts of the Border Roads Organization (BRO) to clear snow and slides from the National Highway while 5 Army men, who were buried under snow in Macchil sector of Kashmir, were rescued.
After weather improved yesterday, this morning rains lashed Kashmir and it was followed by snowfall. The fresh rains and snowfall was caused by the remnants of the Western Disturbance that led to heavy snowfall in Kashmir this week.
At Macchil, five soldiers of 56 RR were trapped after snow track caved in near their camp but were rescued after several hours of hectic efforts. The soldiers were on way to their camp but suddenly the track caved in and they were trapped.
Srinagar based Defence spokesman, Colonel Rajesh Kalia, said here that the rescue operation to save five lives was started immediately and after hours of hectic efforts by rescue parties, the soldiers were rescued and shifted to hospital for treatment.
Sources said that the condition of the rescued jawans is critical and efforts to airlift them to 92-Base Hospital at Badami Bagh Cantonment in Srinagar failed due to bad weather.
The efforts by the Army to bring the bodies of 14 Army personnel killed in Gurez in avalanches that struck their camp and a patrol party on January 25 failed today due to fresh snowfall and rains. However, body of Major Amit Sagar was airlifted to New Delhi this evening despite snowfall in Srinagar.
Authorities today issued an avalanche warning in hilly parts of snow-bound Kashmir Valley in view of fresh snowfall which was still continuing.
Divisional Administration Kashmir today issued a medium danger avalanche warning for next 24-hours for hilly and avalanche prone areas of Kashmir valley and Kargil district. “Medium danger avalanche warning valid for next 24-hours from January 28 to January 29, 2017 (1700 hrs) exists for avalanche prone slopes in Kupwara, Bandipora, Baramulla, Ganderbal, Kulgam, Budgam, Anantnag 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.
Due to fresh snowfall in the afternoon, six flights were cancelled at Srinagar Airport. However, 8 morning flights operated despite rains. Due to snowfall, the runway became slippery and Airport Authority closed it for landing even as three flights were hovering over the Airport for landing.
The fresh snowfall and rains also led to fresh avalanches and landslides at several places along the National Highway forcing traffic authorities to close the highway tomorrow for fresh traffic for fifth consecutive day.
“In view of fresh rain/snowfall in Nowgam -Jawahar Tunnel and Zig – Jawahar Tunnel road stretches followed by triggering of landslides at Sherbibi and Panthyal and keeping in view the condition of the road, no fresh movement of traffic shall be allowed on Jammu-Srinagar NHW tomorrow on 29.01.2017. However, in case weather permits 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”, a traffic official said.
“Commuters are requested/advised that no vehicles are parked/halted 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 to avoid any eventuality”, the official said.
And 12 structures including six residential houses were damaged due to heavy snow fall in Bandipora and Kupwara, police said. In Bandipora, two residential houses and two granaries belonging to Mohammad Ramzan Khan and Ghulam Mohammad Khan residents of Zaigai in the jurisdiction of Police Station Tulail got damaged due to snow avalanche.
Three residential houses were damaged after an avalanche struck Neeru village of Tulail tehsil of Gurez in North Kashmir’s Bandipora district today. The houses belonged to Manzoor Ahmad Lone, Muhammad Subhan and Abdul Rashid Lone. However, no loss of life was reported.
In Kupwara, five structures were damaged due to heavy snowfall which includes two residential houses belonging to Irshad Ahmad Tantray and Sher Khan residents of Dana, Ring Payeen in the jurisdiction of Police Post Macchil, Darul-Aloom Hanfia Anwarya, Thandoosa in the jurisdiction of Police Station Kralpora and two residential houses belonging to Farooq Ahmad Lone resident of Thandoosa and Mohammad Shafi Pord resident of Dardpora in the jurisdiction of Police Station Kralpora.
Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir Police provided its helping hand by shifting a serious patient to hospital stranded at his home in North Kashmir’s Kupwara district. Police Station Trehgam received information that a serious patient is stranded at his home as the roads were blocked due to heavy snowfall. After receiving this information, a police team was constituted who after trekking 6 kilometres on foot reached the spot and shifted the patient to hospital.
Meanwhile,  the upper reaches of Chenab region received another spell of heavy snowfall for three days at a stretch till last evening and the foothills were lashed with rains mixed with snow, forcing the authorities to issue  an avalanche and mudslides warning today.
Both the major mountain ranges of Kailash and Pirpanchal, which are the main source of water for the entire Chenab region, received fresh snowfall in the past 72 hours triggering fear of snow avalanches and mudslides in the vulnerable areas and highways.
Thanhala, Sharekhi, Katyara, Behani, Aalan and Draman Nallah areas of Bhaderwah situated in the foothills of massive Asha Pati  glacier and Haddal, Kota Top, Kharangal Shaddal, Darie, Kaljugasar, Chanti Khawas, Chensar, Madhaan and Julu Signi in Bhalessa area of district Doda are prone to avalanches.
Sub Divisional Magistrate, Bhaderwah, Mohd Anwar Banday, issued an avalanche warning where people are advised not to venture out.
“Due to heavy snowfall in the upper reaches for the last four days, there  is apprehension of avalanches and mudslides in some vulnerable areas, as a precautionary measure Government has issued an avalanche warning  and advisory asking the people not to venture out unnecessarily to avoid any human loss or injury,” the  SDM said.
“Although there is some improvement in the weather,  but next two – three days are more crucial and people should take extra care not only in avalanche prone areas but also while driving as roads have become extremely slippery and mudslides have started  hitting at several places,” SDM added.
Continuous wet weather has already started taking its toll on both the highways (NH1A and NH1B) of Chenab region as on Friday  a massive avalanche hit Khooni Nallah on NH1A in district Ramban and Sanai, Dradu, Raggi Nallah, Pakki Hatti, Kora Pani and Kanderi Nallah knocked off NH1B with mudslides and shooting stones.
In Mahore area of Reasi, due to digging of road by the cable lying company, the road suffered huge damage and five vehicles have been trapped at different places.
A Met spokesman said that with the improvement in weather, Jammu recorded a maximum of 18.6 degree Celsius  and minimum 8.4 degree C temperature today, Katra town maximum 15.6 degree C and minimum 1.6 degree C,  Banihal maximum 7.4 degree C and minimum 0.5 degree C, Bhaderwah maximum 7.5 degree C and minimum -0.3 degree C temperature today. He predicted light rain and snowfall at isolated places in the region in next 24 hours.