Kashmir remains cut off from rest of country

SRINAGAR: The Kashmir valley remained cut off from the rest of the country for the third consecutive day on Tuesday as the 270-kms-long Srinagar-Jammu national highway remained closed due to accumulation of snow, landslides, shooting stones and mudslide at several places.

Meanwhile, the national highway, the only road connecting Union Territory (UT) of Ladakh with Kashmir, the historic 86-km-long Mughal road and Anantnag- Sampthan Kishtwar road have been closed for winter months due to accumulation of snow and slippery road conditions.
A traffic police official said today that the Srinagar-Jammu national highway was closed on Sunday due to fresh snowfall on both sides of the Jawahar tunnel, Shaitan Nallah and Banihal. He said there was fresh snowfall during the past 24 hours and it was snowing at the time of filing this report.
He added that a large boulder fell from the top due to rain followed by a shooting stone, triggered by rain at Samroli.
There was also mudslide at Nashri on the highway, the only all weather road connecting Kashmir valley with the rest of the country, he said.
However, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) and Border Roads Organisation (BRO), responsible for maintenance of the road, have put into service sophisticated machines and men to clear the landslides and shooting stones.
However, continued snowfall and landslides and shooting stone are hampering the operation to make the highway operational. But, he said, there is also a prediction for more snow and rain on the highway during the next 36 hours which could again disrupt traffic movement.
Meanwhile, large number of vehicles, including those carrying essentials, are stranded at different places on the highway. Once the road is put through, the stranded vehicles will be allowed to move before fresh traffic is allowed, he said adding that stranded vehicles between Jawahar tunnel and Banihal will be allowed first to move towards Jammu.
Stranded passengers held demonstrations last evening demanding immediate clearance of snow and landslides on the highway.

They told UNI over phone from Banihal that sheds constructed to accommodate the stranded passengers in case the highway is closed are occupied by the security forces on the highway. However a local NGO said that local residents opened their houses for stranded passengers. There are about 300 to 400 passengers, including women and children besides elders at Banihal.
Local residents are provided accommodation, food and other facilities to stranded passengers for the past few days. The stranded passengers requested that they should be allowed to use new Banihal-Qazigund tunnel to reach Kashmir. However, the tunnel is likely to be dedicated for use of general public in March.
The national highway connecting UT Ladakh with Kashmir has been closed for winter months by the authorities due to accumulation of heavy snow and slippery road conditions.
The Anantnag-Sampathan road and Mughal road connecting south Kashmir with Rajouri, Poonch and Kishtwar in Jammu region have also been closed for winter months due to accumulation of heavy snow on these roads.