6 soldiers among 11 dead in snow avalanches in Kashmir

Trucks stranded on National Highway in Kashmir (left) and vehicles move with head-lights on at a Jammu road during dense fog on Tuesday morning (right).
Trucks stranded on National Highway in Kashmir (left) and vehicles move with head-lights on at a Jammu road during dense fog on Tuesday morning (right).

NH remains closed on Day 3, 4000 vehicles stranded

Air traffic resumes in Sgr, fog hits flight ops at Jammu

Fayaz Bukhari/
Gopal Sharma
SRINAGAR/JAMMU, Jan 14: Eleven persons including six soldiers were killed after heavy snowfall triggered avalanches in Kashmir while over 4000 vehicles were stranded as Jammu-Srinagar National Highway continued to be blocked for the third consecutive day due to landslides in Ramban area and heavy snowfall at Jawahar Tunnel even as flights operation at Jammu Airport was affected due to dense fog during morning hours.
Heavy rain and snowfall during last three days has caused extensive damage to the power infrastructure and nearly 340 electric transformers and about 800 electric poles were reported to have been damaged in Jammu region alone. While the power supply to the major towns was restored by this evening in the region but more than 50 % of the rural and snow bound areas were still affected across the region.

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In Ladakh area, 27 stranded trekkers were rescued by Air Force and Army helicopters on the request of UT Administration today. The choppers or IAF and Army carried out several sorties to lift trekkers trapped in heavy snow in Zanskar area.
Even as the weather improved in parts of Kashmir valley, it was snowing in South Kashmir today leading to continuous closure of the National Highway and many other link roads.
Five persons were killed in Ganderbal district of Central Kashmir since yesterday after they came under snow avalanche in Gund Kullan.
An avalanche hit Gund Kullan in Ganderbal district yesterday burying six persons. They were identified as Mohammad Sadiq Thikri son Chandiyan Thikri and his two sons -Showket Ahmad, 30 and Ishtiyaq Ahmad Thikri, 22, residents of Kulan, Mohammad Akber Bhat, 38, son of Mohammad Ramzan Bhat resident of Gagengeer Sonamarg and Dawood Koshi, 75. Two bodies were recovered from avalanche yesterday and three more were recovered today.
Five Army personnel of 45 RR were buried under snow in Machil sector in Kupwara yesterday after their post was hit by snow avalanche. All the five bodies have been recovered from the snow by the Army’s rescue team.
Four soldiers were rescued and one died as avalanche hit between Gund Post and Shive Post in Tanghdar sector of North Kashmir’s Kupwara district.
Five soldiers were buried under the avalanche today after it hit Tanghdar and an operation was immediately launched by the army and four soldiers were rescued in injured condition while body of one of them was recovered.
In another incident in Nowgam sector of Kupwara district, a forward post of BSF came under snow avalanche which resulted in death of one of its personnel.
Srinagar based Defence spokesman, Col Rajesh Kalia, today said that five Army soldiers and one BSF constable succumbed due to avalanche and snow slides.
The spokesman said that over the past 48 hours, Kashmir has received heavy snowfall, up to six feet, especially in the upper mountains, which have been severely affected by heavy snow, blizzards and the resultant snow slides and avalanches. “Along and close to the Line of Control, alert soldiers and well-rehearsed drills have ensured saving numerous lives and limiting losses. At many locations across the Valley numerous civilians affected by avalanches and snowslides were rescued and provided immediate critical medical aid”, the spokesman added.
“Adherence to safety procedures and drills combined with the quick and courageous actions by the troops of the rescue and medical teams at various places, have led to the saving of many lives. The prompt and committed medical support has played a very crucial role”, the spokesman added.
At least 12 houses, shops and a cowsheds were damaged in Tangmarg in Baramulla district, Qalamabad and Hangha areas of Kupwara yesterday due to heavy snowfall in the area.
Ten houses were completely damaged in Tangmarg villages and a minor boy was also injured in the incident.
The house owners whose houses were damaged are Mohammad Shafi Lone of Wahipora, Nasarullah Khan of Wahipora, Ghulam Mohi U Din Lone of Farezpora, Abdul Salam Wani of Tharhama, Mohammad Shafi Khan of Karhama, Ghulam Mohammad Khan of Ganiwani, Muneer Ahmad Dar of Auboora ,Bashir Ahmad Magaray of Crarn, Farooq Ahmad Pir of Gundalwash and Farooq Ahmad Pir of Chanpora .
A house was damaged in Qalamabad when the water of nearby stream entered into the house and damaged its walls. The owners of the house were identified as Ghulam Nabi Bhat and Mohammad Maqbool bhat, a house of Mohamamd Iqbal Bhat of Hangha was also partially damaged due to snowfall.
The snowfall also damaged a house, two cowsheds, and a shop in Bandipora.
And over 30 villages including Chotali, Dudran, Madanan, Darakunjan, Badyan, Lagri, Jabdi, Bernate, Balkote, Gowalta, Salikote Gohalan, Nawa, Runda, Panj Nag, Madya, Dana, Mohthal, Churanda, Batgrah, Zamoorpatan, Nambla, Bijhama, Lachipora, Mayan, Garkote, Sukdar, Tarkanjan, Budrali, Syedpora, Thajal, Tilawari, Salambad Dachna and Naganari were cut off from Tehsil headquarter after around one feet of snowfall in Uri area. The power supply to these villages was also disrupted for last three days.
Meanwhile, air traffic was partially resumed today after several flights landed at Srinagar airport this afternoon. However, around a dozen flights were cancelled.
Army said that they rescued around 40 passengers of a bus in Kalaroos area of Kupwara. The Defence spokesman said that a bus carrying 40 passengers moving from Kalaroos to Kupwara slipped off the main road and fell down into Lolab Kol. “One of its rear tyre was already off the road and the bus was precariously balanced, hanging over the side”, he said.
“Immediately the Recovery Team of the Hamdard-e-Kupwara sprung into action, extricated all the passengers to safety and the bus was pulled back on to the main road saving the bus from falling down into the Lolab Kol”, the statement issued by the spokesman said.
He said that in the early hours of the morning, Tariq Iqbal and Zahoor Ahmed Khan, residents of Lacchipura B were going towards Bijhama village. “A snow slide hit them approximately 200 meters from the post of Lacchipura Army Camp. Havildar Satya Prakash who was on patrolling saw this incident and immediately alerted the Quick Reaction Team”, the spokesman said.
“Zahoor Ahmed Khan was half buried in the slide but was extricated safely. After persistent search of over 20 minutes, the second individual, Tariq Iqbal was also rescued. Both of them were then evacuated to the Medical Aid Post at the Army Camp. Although Zahoor was discharged after examination, Tari Iqbal remained critical. The Army Medical Officer Capt Sumit Kumar stabilized him and facilitated his subsequent evacuation to hospital in Baramulla”, the spokesman said.
The Defence spokesman said that army rescued tourists from Chadder road in Ladakh today.
“Multiple search and rescue columns of the Fire and Fury Corps were launched to rescue a group of tourists who were stranded in bad weather while undertaking the annual ‘Chaddar Trek’ on the frozen Zanskar River in Ladakh”, the spokesman said.
“Responding swiftly to request received from the UT administration, columns were launched from two directions to reach the tourists who were stuck at Niraq Village along the Zanskar River. Helicopters of the Army Aviation were also pressed into service for the purpose”, the spokesman added.
He said that despite the inclement weather and narrow valleys of the Zanskar River, helicopters of the Army Aviation managed to land at a makeshift helipad in Niraq and inducted a column of Army personnel to coordinate the rescue operations. “An Army Medical Officer was also inducted to provide immediate medical aid to the tourists. Medicines, emergency rations and warm clothing was also providing through the helicopters”, he said.
The spokesman said that six seriously ill tourists who were suffering from effects of frostbite and High Altitude Pulmonary Odema (HAPO) were evacuated by the helicopters to the Army Medical facility in Leh.
Sources added that about 50 trekkers, 40 porters and guides went missing on the Chadar Trek between Tibb and Nyeraks camps on January 11. The trekker could not reach the base camps during the trek as their movement stopped due to melting of the ice sheet over the Zanskar river.
On receiving information, the UT Administration made all out efforts of search on foot by the SDRF and special rescue teams of Air Force and Army choppers. The SDRF and rescue teams deployed for the job located the trekkers on January 12 and stationed them safely in the camp established at Neyraks village. They were provided all the facilities for their safety at the Neyraks Camp.
Rescue choppers of the Indian Air Force and Army specially deployed for the purpose evacuated 27 trekkers from the camp today. The trekkers were given medical treatment at SNM Hospital, Leh and Army General Hospital. The air operations could not be taken up on January 12 and 13 due to severe inclement weather. The remaining trekkers will be air lifted tomorrow, a Defence official at Udhampur said.
Meanwhile, official sources said that more than 4000 heavy, medium and light vehicles were stranded on the highway in Banihal, Chanderkote-Ramban-Nashri-Chenani, Udhampur Bypass, Dhar Road, Mansar, Dyala Chak-Challan Road and Nagrota-Byapss area of Jammu as the road continued to remain closed on the third day today.
IGP Traffic, T Namgyal said that it was raining in Banihal and Ramban sector during the day today and the restoration work was affected several times. Even then the NHIA authorities cleared debris at many landslide areas. There was heavy snow in Jawahar Tunnel area and moreover, there was threat of avalanche near JT. The road could not be opened even today, he added.
Namgyal further said that no vehicle was allowed from Jammu or Srinagar side today. If the weather improved and road was cleared by tomorrow, the movement of traffic from Kashmir side to Jammu will be allowed. He, however, said that Batote-Doda-Kishtwar road has been restored.
An official at Jammu airport said that all the morning and even the afternoon flights were delayed by one to three hours today. No flight could land Jammu airport till 10.15 am due to fog. One flight was cancelled today. He said chopper service at Katra Mata Vaishnodevi was also restored with the improvement in weather. The movement of yatris on new track was also allowed today.
Chief Engineer, PDD (M&RE), Jammu, Sudhir Gupta said that with heavy rain and snowfall about 339 transformers and nearly 800 electric poles have been damaged in Jammu region. The power supply in most of the towns (nearly 90 %) has been restored. But many rural and snow bound areas are still affected. The power will be restored there also within next couple of days. He said the PDD staff was working on war footing to restore supply.
In Ladakh, life remained standstill due to the heavy snowfall in the last 24 hours affecting traffic, water supply and electricity.
Police Post Sankoo after receiving a emergency call evacuated a patient Sakina Banooo (65) from Narambe Sankoo to CHC Sankoo. Kargil recorded nearly 33 inches of snowfall at various locations and people were seen busy in snow clearance from their rooftops and adjoining areas including footpaths.
CEC, Feroz Khan during the review meeting directed to clear the snow from the main roads on priority to link the block headquarters to the sub divisional headquarters for which the mechanical division and BRO are involved in this process.
Meanwhile, to get the first hand appraisal and for the restoration of Power in Rajouri area which was disrupted due to incessant rains /snowfall, District Development Commissioner Mohammad Nazir Sheikh personally visited the various Power stations including Grid Station Thudi from where Power regulation is made.
Executive Engineer STD Kalakote, Ashok Gupta and AEE EM &RE Rajouri Mohd Jamshad apprised the DDC that out of 36 Receiving Stations (33KV &11 KV) only 11 remained functional due to shutdown of 132 KVA line from Barn (Jammu) and incessant rains and snowfall in various parts of the district. The affected receiving stations were Prori, Koteranka, Budhal, Dhangir, Dhanwan, Kalakote, Sunderbani, Siot, Mrchola, Soulki, Moughla, Treru, Sialsui, Phla, Kangri, Beripattan, Jhulla, Nowshera,Rajal, Lam, Laroka, Rajal, Chowkihandan, MES Nowshera & MES Sunderbani.
They also revealed that 39 Transformers including 4 transformers of 250 KVA and 10 Transformers of 100 KVA, were damaged besides 80 poles. Out of 102 feeders only 35 remained functional, but restoration work was in progress.
Regarding roads, 16 PMGSY roads mostly in Thanamandi and Budhal areas and 2 PWD roads namely Koteranka Khawas & Samote- Targain, besides 2 maintained by BRO/GREFF namely Thanamandi-Dhera Gali Road and Rajouri Budhal Road were affected, while restoration work on Rajouri-Budhal Road was initiated and road has been made partially trafficable.
Deputy Commissioner Ramban, Nazim Zai Khan today convened an emergency meeting of district and sectoral officers to review progress of snow, road clearance and position of essential services and supply in district.
During the meeting, he reviewed the status of availability of essential commodities and restoration of essential services and supplies. He directed the officers to start restoration work of water and power supply on war footing besides ensuring availability of essential commodities especially in snow bound areas. The DC also took stock of snow and road clearance operations on national highway and link roads of Sub divisions Banihal, Ramsu and Gool and directed the concerned officers to restore all the roads as early as possible.
The DC directed authorities of executing agencies to depute adequate men and machinery to remove landslides instantly from National Highway as well as link roads to avoid traffic breakdown besides ensuring traffic worthy road 24 X7. He appealed to the commuters to contact traffic control rooms before starting their journey on the highway.
Meanwhile, many roads including Latti-Dudu-Basantgarh, Ramnagar Majouri-B’garh, Basholi Bani, Thathri- Gandoh, Mahore Gool, Mandi-Loran and Sawjian, Bafliaz-Dera gali-Thanamandi, Baudhal -Mahore besides scores of roads in Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban were still blocked. Reasi-Mahore and Udhampur-Pancheri Roads were restored today. Kud-Patnitop-Batote road was also cleared today and light traffic allowed on it.
Jammu city recorded a low of 5.5 degrees Celsius, a drop of almost six degrees from the previous night’s 11.3 degrees Celsius, a Met official said.
He said snow-bound Bhaderwah in Doda district was the coldest place in the region with a low of minus 0.5 degrees Celsius, followed by Batote in Ramban district at minus 0.2 degrees Celsius, the department said.
He said Katra, the base camp for the pilgrims visiting the Vaishno Devi shrine, recorded a minimum of 5.6 degrees Celsius against the previous night’s 9.4 degrees Celsius.