3 more die, 5000 vehicles stranded as NH remains closed

A view of snowfall in Bhaderwah town. -Excelsior/Tilak Raj
A view of snowfall in Bhaderwah town. -Excelsior/Tilak Raj

Gopal Sharma/
Fayaz Bukhari
JAMMU/ SRINAGAR, Nov 8: Over 5000 vehicles, mostly trucks have been stranded as the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway continued to remain closed for second consecutive day today after heavy rain and snowfall during past two days across the region while three more deaths were reported from various parts of Jammu region since last evening.
The Mughal Road, connecting the twin districts of Poonch and Rajouri in Jammu region with Kashmir’s Shopian district, was also closed for traffic for the last three days following heavy snowfall at Pir Panjal. The Kishtwar- Sinthan Top and Anantnag Roads and Srinagar -Leh highway were still blocked.
With the clear weather today, the temperature in Jammu has recorded some improvement while power supply to many areas was restored today. Some rural and snow bound areas were still under darkness, official sources said.
Reports from Udhampur, Ramban and other places said that over 3000 trucks and other load carriers besides oil tankers were stranded at Udhampur-Dhar Road/ Bypass and Nagrota Bypass Jammu besides Manwal, Dayala Chak and Samba-Mansar Road. About 2000 trucks/ load carriers were also stranded on that side of the Jawahar Tunnel in South Kashmir. The movement of passenger vehicles was not allowed from Nagrota TPC, near Jammu and from Awantipora side in Kashmir during past two days. At Jammu Bus Stand, huge rush of Kashmir bound passengers has been accumulated.

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Inspector General of Police Traffic, J&K, Alok Kumar said that though landslides at most of the trouble- prone areas between Ramban and Banihal have been cleared but shooting stones continued to create trouble and pose risk to the lives of commuters. He said snow from Jawahar Tunnel area was cleared during the day today but due to slippery road conditions and frequent shooting stones, no movement of traffic on the either side was allowed today.
He further said that about 15-20 stranded light passenger vehicles between Ramban and Banihal were cleared for Kashmir but no movement of vehicles from Kashmir side was allowed. It was full of risk to allow vehicles in the evening. The traffic movement would be allowed only after reviewing the situation tomorrow morning, Kumar said.
SSP Traffic, National Highway JS Johar said that landslides at Bali Nallah near Udhampur was cleared today. Due to landsliding at Drabshalla, the movement of traffic on Batote-Kishtwar highway was also disrupted for several hours, but the traffic was restored shortly. He said the problem due to land sliding was created at Seri, Nashri and Mehar near Ramban, then at Mom Pathri, Monkey Morh and Pathyal. Most of these areas were cleared but shooting stones continue to pose risk to the lives of the road users. The vehicular movement will be allowed tomorrow after the weather further improves, Johar added.
A young villager, Bittu Kumar (28), resident of Sarar village in Latti, was killed and Sudesh Kumar of the same area, was seriously injured when the lightning struck them at the village last evening. They were carrying dowry items on their heads while returning from the marriage function. While Bittu was killed on the spot, Sudesh was shifted to Chenani Hospital.
Another villager, Shafiq Ahmed, son of Ali Mohd, resident of Jia Bagodass village in remote Chassana area of Mahore in district Reasi, was slipped down into the Nallah when he was returning home last evening. It was raining heavily in the area and his body was recovered this morning by the villagers after long search.
Reports from Rajouri said that police recued 16 persons trapped on Mughal Road near Pir Ki Gali and Poshana area late last evening and over two dozen vehicles were said to have been trapped in heavy snow near Pir Ki Gali.
Meanwhile, one Mohd Ayan (26), a mechanic by profession, son of Mohd Alyas, hailing from Meerut (UP) and presently residing at Thannamandi, slipped down from the tin roof during heavy rain last evening while working on electric cables. He sustained serious head injury and was killed on the spot. Later, his body was shifted to Thannamandi Hospital.
Kargil area in Ladakh also experienced the first snowfall of the season. Meenamarg and Drass area experienced 11 inch of snow, Panikar 3 inch, Zanskar and Rangdum 2 inch snowfall till 3 pm on Thursday.
The Kargil- Srinagar Road is closed for any type of vehicular movement due to snowfall in Drass, Zojila and Gumri area. Hundreds of vehicles have been stranded at Kargil and Drass due to closure of highway.
Meanwhile, unprecedented heavy snowfall after 50 years in first week of November threw life out of gear in Chenab region in general and those residing in higher reaches in particular as beside closure of all communication links, farmers are apprehending huge losses as maize, paddy crop is still in the field in some areas and pruning of fruit trees is yet to be done.
Heavy snowfall since Thursday night has forced authorities to close Bhadarwah-Basohli highway and Bhadarwah-Chamba interstate road beside many far flung areas in the region also got cut-off.
There has almost been a breakdown of electricity in majority of high altitude villages and people are facing drinking water scarcity.
From 3 inch to 2 feet show was recorded in different areas of Bhadarwah valley and Bhalessa in district Doda as Chattar Gala on Bhadarwah-Basohli highway and Padri Gali on Bhadarwah-Chamba interstate road recorded 2 feet snow till 12 noon, while Kota Top received 1.5 feet, Dhadhkai 1.3 feet, Khanni Top 1.3 feet, Kansar 1 feet, Luhasoo-Chatra 8 inches, Shankhoja 8 inches, Chinchora 7 Inches and Bhadarwah town received 3 Inch snowfall.
This is the heaviest snowfall experienced ever in first week of November as locals claimed that before this, Bhadarwah valley received heavy snowfall in 1978 but after 15 November.
“I have witnessed heavy snowfall in first week of November after 40 years which is not a good omen for farmers, cattle rearers and labour class as all the developmental and other construction works will be suspended till march, which means we will get no work for 5 months and this a scary situation,” said Abdul Latief of Chatra Bhadarwah.
“We were expecting a good yield this year as there was bumper maize crop but sudden and unseasonal snowfall shattered all our hopes as maize was still either in the fields or was kept on rooftops for drying but overnight snowfall damaged everything. As of now, we are unable to locate how to cope up with this situation,” said Saif Din Dhakad of village Kota Top-Kharangal of Bhallesa.
“Normally pruning of fruit trees is performed only after there is no leaf left on the trees in December before snowfall because some variety of apple and walnut and persimmon only ripens in end of November. Due to overnight snowfall most of our orchids got damaged as the snow is not only unseasonal but quite heavier than normal,” said Mohd Aslam from Gandoh.
Meanwhile, the untimely rain and hail-storm has dashed the hard work of past six months within few hours of farmers of district Samba, R S Pura and parts of Jammu.
Ashok Kumar, Mulkh Raj , Mula Ram, Satpaul, Darshan Sharma, Baldev Raj from Ramgarh area said that the Kharief crops which was reaped and the farmers were schedule to be harvesting the same but the rain and hailstorm totally destroyed the paddy crops. The farmers are feeling hapless as they have sown the kharief crops by obtaining loans from the banks/financial institutions. It will becomes tough for the farmers to liquidate their loans liabilities.
The farmers have urged upon the Lieutenant Governor to issue the directions to the concerned officers to make assessment regarding the loss caused to the farmers and provide the compensation to the affected farmers at par with the compensation provided to farmers in Kashmir region.
Meanwhile, Chilly weather conditions have intensified as the maximum and minimum temperatures remained several degrees below normal on Friday in Kashmir valley, which received heavy snowfall during the last 48 hours.
However, weather is expected to improve from Saturday morning onwards, which would result in improvement in the maximum and minimum temperatures.
A MeT department spokesperson said that the weather will improve from Saturday morning and the skies will remain clear in Kashmir valley till November 13.
Tree tops, roofs and open fields were still covered under a blanket of over a foot of snow in the summer capital, Srinagar, which received the season’s first snowfall on Thursday. Majority of interior roads still remained under a foot of snow as the operation to clear the roads has not been initiated so far in the city, where electricity and water supply remained suspended since Wednesday night.
People could be seen wearing jackets, sweaters and pheran (traditional Kashmiri cloak), to evade chilly weather conditions in the city, where pedestrians were finding it difficult to walk on the roads which were waterlogged due to melting of snow as sun played hide and seek.
Gulmarg, about 55 km from here in north Kashmir, received over two feet of fresh snow during the last 48 hours, resulting in further dip in the night temperature. Kongdori and Apharwat, the highest point of the cable car project in Gulmarg, also received moderate to heavy snowfall.
A hotelier said that with the snowfall, the players associated with tourism industry are expecting more tourists to come to Gulmarg, which is famous for its ski slopes and the quality of snow. “So far 12000 tourists, including 600 foreigners, have visited the ski resort,” an official said.
Weather was cloudy at world famous health resort of Pahalgam, about 100 km from here in south Kashmir, which also received moderate to heavy snowfall during the last 48 hours.
However, the upper reaches in Pahalgam, including Chandanwari, received heavy snowfall on Friday. Amarnath cave shine and its periphery, besides Sheshnag, Mahagung, Pisso top and Panjterni, also received very heavy snowfall.
The Srinagar-Jammu national highway, the only road linking the Kashmir valley with the rest of the country, remained closed for second successive day on Friday due to slippery road conditions following accumulation of snow.
Meanwhile, the 434-km-long Srinagar-Leh National Highway and historic 86-km-long Mughal road remained closed for the Third day on Friday due to heavy snowfall. Dozens of roads leading to far flung and remote town and villages, including those near the Line of Control (LoC) also remained closed for the second consecutive day on Thursday due to heavy to very heavy snowfall.
Air traffic also remains suspended at Srinagar airport due to poor visibility
Air traffic also remained suspended for the second successive day on Friday at Srinagar International Airport, where all flights were cancelled due to poor visibility.
There is no possibility of resuming the air traffic from the only airport in the valley following poor visibility and accumulation of snow on the runway, an official said.
He said no flight could be operated from the airport since early Thursday morning due to poor visibility and heavy snowfall. “Operation is underway to clear snow from the runway,” he added.
The official said that the air traffic can be resumed only after the improvement in the weather condition. “Till the time visibility improves, flight can’t be operated from the airport,” he said, adding considering the forecast it is highly unlikely that the air traffic will resume on Friday.
Meanwhile, hundreds of passengers could be seen waiting at the airport since early morning, hoping that the flight service will resume from the airport. “I had an early morning flight to Delhi so I reached the airport at around 0800 hrs. But to my disappointment, I was informed that the flights have been suspended. After waiting for over four hours, I was told that the flight has been cancelled,” a passenger, Rameez Ahmad, said.
Meanwhile, Kashmir’s only media facilitation centre has been non-functional since Thursday due to snowfall in the valley which has disrupted the power supply.
The Internet services at the media centre, established by Jammu and Kashmir government in the wake of abrogation of Article 370, are down leading to problems for journalists who have not been able to file the stories.
The officials of the department of information and public relations which has been operating the media centre said there is some technical snag due to snowfall and efforts are on to restore the services at the earliest.
Landline and postpaid mobile phone services were working across the valley, but all Internet services continued to remain suspended since August 4 — hours before the Centre announced the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories.