NH likely to be cleared today, Ramban-Banihal stretch restored

Highway restoration work in progress at Samroli near Udhampur on Thursday. -Excelsior/K Kumar
Highway restoration work in progress at Samroli near Udhampur on Thursday. -Excelsior/K Kumar

Army, police rescue trapped pilgrims at Pir Panjal
* Body of guide found, search for tourist on

Gopal Sharma

JAMMU, June 23: While the National Highway authorities were using explosives to crack big boulders at Samroli near Chenani, the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway and Batote- Kishtwar Road is likely to be restored by Friday afternoon.
The authorities cleared most of the landslides between Udhampur-Ramban and Banihal by this evening but Maroog and T-2 Tunnel area were still blocked. However, Maroog was cleared late this evening but work on the T-2 Tunnel point just ahead of Kela Morh was in progress. The Traffic Police authorities cleared Kashmir bound stranded light motor vehicles through old and narrow alignment at this point in Ramban sector. Click here to watch video
SSP National Highway Shabir Malik said that work at T-2 Tunnel point was in progress while all other landslides have been cleared except Samroli in Udhampur sector. He said T-2 Tunnel point debris are likely to be cleared by midnight and there after all the stranded heavy vehicles from Ramban, Chanderkote and Nashri area will be cleared towards Kashmir. He said about 1000 trucks at present have been stranded in this belt.
Malik said Gammon Company has engaged heavy machines at Dewal near Samroli. Some bounders are being broken by using explosives. He said this was the troubled area this time all along the highway. The National Highway engineers are expecting to clear the road at this point by Friday afternoon or maximum by evening. The senior Traffic Police officials and the district administrations concerned were closely monitoring the restoration work.
Meanwhile, the police and Army from Chassana area of Mahore rescued about two dozens of pilgrims trapped in heavy snow at Pir Panjal. They established contact with them today and brought them back to Chassana area. They had gone to Kouser Nag Yatra from Mahore sub division.
Official sources said that explosives were used to blast boulders, that were hampering the ongoing restoration work on the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway, which remained closed due to multiple landslides triggered by incessant rains for the third consecutive day today.
They said with the improvement in weather, the restoration work at over two dozen places in Udhampur and Ramban districts was speeded up in the morning. Explosives were used to blast boulders at Dewal bridge near Samroli in Udhampur district, where a huge landslide had blocked a long stretch of the road.
Udhampur Deputy Commissioner Krittika Jyotsna visited the landslide-hit area to review the situation, the officials said, adding the restoration work might stretch till Friday afternoon given the massive debris.
Ramban Deputy Commissioner Mussarat Islam, who is also personally monitoring the road clearance operations, said 25 out of the around 30 areas hit by landslides and mudslides on the highway were cleared on Wednesday evening. The highway was blocked on Tuesday evening due to landslides, mudslides and shooting stones at 33 places in Ramban and Udhampur districts. A 150 ft long road stretch and an under-construction bridge on the highway were also washed away due to flash floods.
The Mughal Road, another link connecting the twin Poonch-Rajouri districts of Jammu region with South Kashmir’s Shopian district, was also cleared for traffic after remaining closed for two days.
The officials said many people crossed the landslide-hit areas by foot to reach their destinations.
The stranded passengers have been provided with food and medical facilities, they added.
Meanwhile, the flood situation in Kashmir showed a marked improvement today as water level in Jhelum and other water bodies receded considerably while body of a tourist guide who was drowned yesterday at Tarsar lake in South Kashmir was found and search for that of the tourist is on.
From reaching 22.09-ft at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, the water level in Jhelum at Sangam gauge in south Kashmir was at 18.29 today, an official of Irrigation and Flood Control department said.
At Ram Munshi Bagh here, the Jhelum was flowing at 19.2-ft today. “The water level is expected to reduce further as the day progresses,” said the official.
At Asham in northern Kashmir’s Bandipora district, the official said, the Jhelum level was at 12.58ft, almost 2-ft below the mark when flood is sounded there.
Regarding some tributaries, the official said, the water level has receded below threat level now. He said Vishow Nallah at Khudwani Kulgam was flowing at 5.81m against the flood mark of 7.0m. At noon on June 22, the water level in Vishow Nallah at Khudwani Kulgam had reached 10.7m, he said. Similarly, he said, the level at Rambiyara Nallah at Wachi Shopian at noon was 1.99 m against danger mark of 5.7 while the nallah Lidder at Batkoot was flowing at 0.76m against the danger level of 1.65m.
Doodhganga Nallah at Barzulla here was flowing at 1.78m against the dangerous mark of 3.8m and Sindh Nallah at Doderhama was flowing 1.99m against 3.36m at last (June 22) noon. The weatherman has forecast improvement in the weather.
Body of local tourist guide, who drowned in Tarsar Lake in Pahalgam area of Anantnag district yesterday was found at Lidderwath area of Pahalgam today, even as efforts were on to retrieve the body of the drowned tourist.
An official said that the body of Shakeel Ahmad, a tourist guide of Gagangeer area of Ganderbal, who had drowned while trying to save tourists yesterday, was recovered at Lidderwath today, while an operation was going on to locate the body of the drowned tourist.
The incident happened at Tarsar Lake in Sikwas area of Pahalgam, when a group of 13 tourists including three local guides were on way for sight-seeing on Wednesday.
When tourists along with guides were walking nearby the lake, a tourist identified as Dr Mahesh from Uttarakhand drowned due to high flow of water in the Lake while the rest of them got stuck there.
In the meantime, seven tourists and two families had a miraculous escape today after a houseboat capsized into the Dal lake following incessant rains in the Kashmir valley over the past few days.
Mohammad Yousuf, owner of the house boat said that his houseboat “Kolhai” sank into the Dal lake this morning and added that besides two families there were seven tourists in the houseboat when it started to sink.
He said that he along with other family members first evacuated the tourists as the houseboat was slowly sinking and somehow they managed to take them to a safer place. “After taking tourists to safer places, we evacuated other family members.”