2 killed, 95 passengers stranded at Sadhna Top

NH, Airport  re-open
Fayaz Bukhari/Gopal Sharma
SRINAGAR/ JAMMU, Jan 5: Snowfall in Kashmir disrupted normal life as entire Valley woke up to a thick blanket of snow this morning while tourist resorts of Patnitop and Bhaderwah besides Mata Vaishnodevi hills at Katra experienced heavy snowfall of the season, whereas, Jammu- Srinagar National Highway was re-opened for traffic and a few flights also operated from Srinagar Airport this afternoon.
From Jammu airport, two flights were cancelled and several delayed while in view of dense fog and bad weather in the region, several trains were late today. Heavy rain since mid night and snowfall, disrupted normal life in many parts of Jammu while several link roads at the higher reaches of the region were closed.
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The snowfall led to death of two persons in North Kashmir where 95 passengers were stranded on Kupwara-Tanghdar road near Sadna Top due to heavy snowfall since yesterday. At least 95 passengers including the dead body of a woman who died due to cold on the way on Friday evening were stranded at Sadhna Top on Kupwara-Tanghdar road due to heavy snowfall. The road was closed yesterday after heavy snowfall in the area.
Deputy Commissioner Kupwara, Khalid Jahangir said the continuous snowfall has disrupted the rescue operation in the area since Friday afternoon. He said the stranded people were traveling in a Sumo and with the help of Army, the people could reach Sadhna Top where a 75-year-old woman died due to cold. He said the rescue teams due to continuing snow found it difficult to shift the body of the woman to her ancestral village.
A man died after falling from a rooftop while he was clearing snow in district today. Mumtaz Ahmad, a resident of Plan Bandipora, fell down from the roof of his house while he was clearing snow to prevent it from collapsing. He was shifted to District Hospital Bandipora where from he was referred to SKIMS Soura for treatment but he succumbed on the way.
Snowfall in the Valley including Srinagar began Friday afternoon and continued till this morning. Srinagar recorded 10 inches of snowfall, Gulmarg two feet of fresh snow, Qazigund one foot, Kokernag three inches, Pahalgam 1.5 feet, Kupwara 1.6 feet and Jawhar Tunnel 1.5 feet.
The snow clearance operation was started by Mechanical Engineering Department and Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) early this morning as they pressed its men and machinery in service. Majority of the roads in Srinagar and other parts of the Valley were cleared by afternoon.
Chief Engineer R&B, Kashmir Sami Arif said that road connectivity was not an issue in South and Central Kashmir districts. However, in North Kashmir due to heavy snowfall almost all roads were closed. He said that the majority of the roads in Central and South Kashmir were cleared by afternoon.
He said that there was 2-3 feet snowfall in Rafiabad area of Baramulla district and Kupwara district and majority of the roads were closed and 60 percent were cleared today and others will take some more time to clear the rest of the roads. “The Baramulla-Kupwara and Sopore-Kupwara roads are through for traffic”, he said.
The Border Roads Organization cleared snow from the Jammu-Srinagar National highway on either side of the Jawahar Tunnel this morning and the traffic Police allowed stranded vehicles on either side of the tunnel to cross over.
IG Traffic, J&K, Alok Kumar told the Excelsior that snow from the Jawahar Tunnel area was cleared this afternoon and the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway was cleared for traffic. He said some stranded vehicles in Banihal area and other side of the Tunnel were cleared up to 5 pm but the movement of traffic was stopped due to slippery conditions and precautionary measures, there after. He said tomorrow traffic from Jammu to Srinagar will be allowed if the weather remained clear.
Superintendent of Police Traffic Rural, Kashmir, Muzaffar Ahmad Shah said that soon after the highway was cleared they allowed 100 Light Motor Vehicles, mostly passenger vehicles that were stranded at Qazigund to cross towards Jammu. He added that this was followed by around 250 trucks and thereafter over 100 trucks that were stranded at Banihal were allowed to cross towards Srinagar. He said that several vehicles carrying the candidates who are appearing in NEET examinations at Jammu tomorrow were also allowed to cross this evening. These candidates were waiting at Srinagar Airport to catch a flight but majority of them were canceled and they left for Jammu by road this evening.
Air traffic resumed at Srinagar airport this afternoon after remaining suspended for over 24 hours due to snowfall and poor visibility.
The Border Roads Organization this morning started snow clearance operation at the airport and cleared it by noon. Only five out of the 24 scheduled flights were able to operate in afternoon when the run-way was cleared of snow.
At Jammu airport also two morning flights of Indigo and SpiceJet were cancelled and several delayed due to bad weather and snow at Srinagar airport. A few flights were diverted from Jammu airport, SSP Airport Mohd Aslam said.
The flights which operated included four Air India and one GoAir. Three flights landed at the Srinagar airport today and those took off included two aircrafts that were stranded at the airport since yesterday. All morning flights to and fro the airport were cancelled today.
Colonel Mukesh, Commander of 32 Border Roads Task Force said here that snow from the airport was challenging as the safety of the five flights that were halted at the airport in the day was also to be maintained.
Meanwhile, Divisional Commissioner Kashmir said that men and machinery was already kept in a state of preparedness and the administration along with police worked overnight to ensure uninterrupted availability of essential services. “For the first time power supply and the road connectivity was not disrupted as traffic continued on the roads and power was not snapped in any part of Kashmir valley”, he said
Police also worked overnight along with civil administration to ensure prompt delivery of services and hassle free movement of the traffic in Srinagar and other parts of Kashmir valley.
Khan had issued an avalanche warning for nine districts of Kashmir division in view of the inclement weather and snowfall. The warning was issued for the avalanche-prone areas in district Anantnag, Kulgam, Budgam, Baramulla, Kupwara, Bandipora, Ganderbal, Kargil and Leh.
At Patnitop and Natha Top in Jammu region a large number of tourists visited and enjoyed snowfall. Mata Vaishnodevi shrine also experienced season’s heavy snowfall. The Yatra however, continued smoothly despite snowfall. The reports of heavy snowfall have also been reported from Latti, Dudu-Basantgarh and Pancheri in Udhampur, parts of Bhderwah, Kishtwar, Doda, Rajouri and Poonch.
Mandi-Loran and Saujian road in Poonch, Rajouri-Dera Gali- Bafliaz -Surankote roads have also been closed. Several roads in Ramban, Doda and Kishtwar were also blocked due to heavy snowfall.
The Jammu recorded some improvement in day and night temperatures as compared to past two days while, Met has projected rain across the region and snowfall at higher reaches tomorrow. The weather will improve after Sunday.
Meanwhile, a Northern Railways spokesman said that several trains were delayed due to fog in northern India. He said Ghazipur-Mata Vaishnodevi train was late by five and half hours, Begumpura Express by 3 hrs, Bagalpur-Jammu Tawi by 5 hrs, Kanpur-Jammu Tawi by 4 hrs, Andeman Express by 2 and half hours, Pooja Express by an hour while about half a dozen other trains were late by nearly an hour today.