Valley remains cut off, choppers airlift stranded passengers
10 February 2005
Jammu: With the vital Jammu-Srinagar National Highway remaining closed for the fourth consecutive day today, the Indian Air Force has pressed its helicopters to airlift over 3000 passengers stranded on different places en route the highway to Jammu. With snowfall continuing in the valley over 600 vehicles stranded are stranded on the highway. A record 10 feet of snowfall has been reported in Jawahar Tunnel and 5 feet in Patnitop. Three more bodies of ITBP personnel buried in last weekend's avalanche were recovered from near the Jawahar Tunnel taking the toll to 11. More than 3,000 people have been shifted from their vehicles and housed in sheds and government accommodation. Over 300 passengers have already been airlifted to Jammu from Banihal and others places en route the highway and most of them were old people, children and tourists, defence sources told PTI. IAF helicopters have been pressed into service to airlift the stranded passengers to Jammu and other places, the sources said. Besides, seven to eight other choppers and some planes have been used to ferry troops from Srinagar to Jammu and Jammu to Srinagar and other forward areas in Jammu and Kashmir, they said. The soldiers are waiting at the Air Force airport to be taken to forward areas and Srinagar. The planes used in these operation included AN-32, M-17 and MI-25 helicopters, they said adding that we want to help them in this direction. Due to repeated closures of Jammu-Srinagar National Highway, over 11000 troops have been air lifted to and fro by IAF from Jammu to Srinagar and Srinagar to Jammu during January and February this year, they said. The western air command has pressed IL-76 and AN-32 aircraft to operate from Air Force station, Jammu, and Air Force station, Udhampur, for transporting to and fro, troops to the forward bases of Air Force station Srinagar and Air Force station Awantipur in Kashmir valley, they said. Avalanche threat in Himachal The mercury dipped marginally in parts of the northern plains, including Punjab and Haryana while it continued to snow heavily in upper reaches of Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh where fresh avalanche threats have been issued. Delhiites today enjoyed a pleasant day with the temperature rising and rains lashing parts of the Capital late in the day. The minimum temperature fell by about two degrees in Punjab and Haryana bringing the region again in the grip of cold even as the weather office predicted hailstorm or thunder squall within a day. The temperature fell to 11.8 degree Celsius in Chandigarh, 10.6 in Ambala, 12.6 in Karnal, 10.5 in Ludhiana and 11.6 in Patiala. Amritsar continued to remain the coldest in plains of Punjab and Haryana with a low of six degree celsius. The city also received a maximum of two mm of rainfall followed by 0.1 mm in Ludhiana. Upper tribal areas of Lahaul, Spiti, and Pin in Himachal Pradesh remained under a thick white blanket with fresh snowfall and mercury there ranged between -18 and -28 degree Celsius. However higher and mid hills had some respite from intermittent snow, rain and sleet after a week as the Indo-Tibet NH and Kullu-Manali road was reopened partially. The minimum temperature stood at 2.2 degrees at Shimla, Mashobra and Bhuntar while it dipped to -4.1 degree at Kalpa in Kinnaur district. Dhundi in Kullu district recorded 56 cm of snow during past 24 hours while Bhang, Solang and Kalpa recorded 31 cm, 22 cm and 16.6 cm of snow. Meanwhile, the Snow and Avalanche Study centre in Chandigarh warned people staying above 2500 metres in Kupwara, baramula, Sopore, Anantnag, Kargil, Doda and Rajouri district of Jammu and Kashmir not to venture in avalanche prone areas for the next 48 hours.