Army, air force rescue stranded Kashmir travellers
28 February 2007
Indo-Asian News Service
New Delhi: The Indian Army and the Indian Air Force (IAF) have successfully rescued 652 travellers stranded in Kashmir due to the closure of the Jammu-Srinagar national highway because of heavy snowfall.Army teams were also working on a war footing to reopen the highway, which has remained closed for seven days, a defence ministry release said Wednesday.Two hundred bus passengers were airlifted in four IAF AN-32 aircraft from Jammu to Srinagar, while another 452 were moved to Udhampur by army buses to be airlifted in larger aircraft, the release added.Incessant rain and snowfall triggered landslides at Panthal on the Jammu-Srinagar highway, leaving thousands of passengers stranded at Jammu and Srinagar without any aid and support. 'Realising the gravity of the situation, the army, along with the air force, stepped in to airlift the passengers from airfields at Jammu and Udhampur to Srinagar,' the release said.While the IAF provided the aircraft, the army deployed its teams at the Jammu bus stand, the airport and tourist centres along with civil administration to assist the stranded passengers. The army has also established a temporary transit camp at Udhampur for receiving the passengers and providing them with refreshments, food and medical facilities. 'Adequate accommodation arrangements have also been made for the civilians both at Jammu and Srinagar. All stranded transients openly expressed their heartfelt gratitude to the armed forces for their spontaneous gesture and unstinted help,' the release said, adding: 'The warmth and consideration of all army personnel was also widely appreciated.'The army has also taken up opening of the national highway on a war footing despite inclement weather. One complete task force of the Border Roads Organisation has been working continuously round the clock and the road is scheduled to open within the next few days,' it said.