Storms Rip Across Kashmir, Life Out Of Gear

Storms Rip Across Kashmir, Life Out Of Gear

20 March 2012
Kashmir Observer


Srinagar: A windstorm that burst on Kashmir with unprecedented ferocity Monday night, blew away hundreds of rooftops, uprooted thousands of trees, smashed power lines and toppled mobile towers prompting government to close all schools and declare state of emergency. Two persons were killed and 30 others injured in the mishaps caused by unusually strong winds, gusting up to 60 kilometre per hour. The storm was triggered by low atmospheric pressure over the region, experts said. A Disaster Management official said the windstorm which started Monday night and continued Tuesday without respite claimed its first victim in Ganderbal district when 50-year-old Muhammad Maqbool Magray died on the spot after a Chinar tree fell on his house in Kashanbal, Kangan, crushing the victim under it. Second victim was identified as Tajamul Ahmad Bhat of Qazigund, in Kulgam district. Schools throughout Kashmir valley were closed as the unprecedented windstorm kept residents on tenterhooks. The administration has advised all its wings to remain in a state of maximum preparedness to meet the crisis. 'Nearly ten thousand homes have been damaged because of the windstorm. Roofs have been blown away at many places; trees uprooted by the windstorm have blocked roads, damaged homes at other places,' a senior officer of the divisional administration said. 'We are gathering information from different districts to assess the actual damage caused”. The officer also said all district headquarters have been converted into emergency headquarters to meet the crisis. According to KNS 10,000 houses, 2000 cowsheds,1500 shops,100 mosques and other structures suffered extensive damage while nearly 600 electric poles, 20 mobile phone towers and 1500 vehicles were also damaged during the 20 hour long storm. Authorities fear massive damage to fruit crop as apple orchards have suffered extensive damage. “This (storm) was one was particularly strong. Our fruit set period is about to begin and lots of small fruit and flowers that turn into fruit have been destroyed by winds and hundreds of fruit trees uprooted,” said Pervez Ahmad Kambay, a resident of Hygam in Sopore. Strong winds blowing across the Dal Lake in Srinagar city have also damaged many houseboats. More than one thousand domestic and foreign tourists staying in Dal lake were evacuated by police rescuers with active assistance of locals and sheltered in different hotels. 'Many houseboats have suffered damage because of the windstorm. In some cases, the occupants barely managed to escape with life as their houseboats were precariously jolted and rattled in the windstorm,' said Muhammad Azim Tuman, chairperson of the houseboat owners' association. Reports from south Kashmir said that several tourists had a narrow escape when a pine tree fell on their hut in Pahalgam hill station. Hundreds of fallen poplar trees lining the main roads in north and south Kashmir have blocked the inter district transport. Massive damage has been caused to electric poles, transmission lines and transformers plunging most of the valley into darkness. FEAR Quoting a resident of suburban Omar Colony in Srinagar Junaid Kawoos, IANS, reported: 'All of us were awake for the entire night. It looked as if the world would end. Literally everything shook around.' Fear was palpable here as wild rumours went round the valley. People in Srinagar's Lal Bazaar and Newtheed areas, located across the banks of Dal Lake where the damage was the worst, maintained states of emergency amid specially called prayers in mosques. People in many down town localities also took shelter in mosques and engaged themselves in night long prayers. Unfounded rumours said an even stronger windstorm would lash the valley March 30. The divisional administration had to issue a statement dispelling these rumours and asking people not to pay heed to them. 'An unusually low pressure system developed over the valley yesterday (Monday). The windstorm is the result of this low pressure system.' an official of the local weather office said. The storm caused by a steep pressure gradient underwritten by a dip in the westerlies may weaken the wind speed by Wednesday, an official of Met office here said. AVALANCHE WARNING Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE) here meanwhile has issued high danger avalanche warning in Drass area in Kargil district which was also lashed by high velocity wind storm last night. High danger avalanche warning exists in Drass area of J-K for the next 24 hours from 5 pm today, SASE said in a release here. Medium danger avalanche warning exists during the same period in avalanche-prone areas of Bandipur-Gurez, where people have been advised not to venture in these areas. SASE stated that Drass had received a fresh spell of snowfall today. Reports reaching here from Leh town of Ladakh region also said that the nightlong windstorm had created panic there. Meanwhile, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah reviewed the situation at 12.15 PM here, which was also attended by Minister of State for Home and Revenue, Nasir Aslam Wani, Minister of State for R&B, Javed Dar, besides Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Dr Asgar Hassan Samoon, IGP Kashmir, SM Sahai, Deputy Commissioner, Srinagar, Baseer Ahmed Khan, Chief Engineers of EM&RE, R&B, PHE and Joint Director, Fire & Emergency Services. The Chief Minister said the power infrastructure was the hardest hit because of trees falling on supply lines. '(Power Development) Department (is) working to restore (electricity). All but one major hospital has been reconnected,' he added on the microblogging site twitter. Power supply has been snapped as a precautionary measure as electricity poles have been uprooted at many places. Phone and power lines have also been snapped in many areas. A large by number of people preferred to stay indoors to avoid getting hit by falling trees, poles, advertising hoardings and GI sheets flying off the roof tops. According to one report an unspecified number of trees mostly poplars and around 150 Chinar trees have either been uprooted or damaged. In Srinagar’s famed Nishat Garden five majestic Chinar trees, some believed to be as old as 400 years, have reportedly been uprooted by strong winds. ON THE OTHER SIDE OF DIVIDE: Strong windstorm also swept through Poonch, Muzaffarabad, Bagh and Haveeli district in Pakistani controlled part of Kashmir. The worst affected district was said to be Haveeli where strong winds shattered windows, pulled rooftops off homes and uprooted trees. Hundreds of homes were damaged in the Haveeli and many other districts of Azad Kashmir. One report said that Haveli district has suffered damage similar to the 2005 earthquake. Heavy rains have lashed Bagh following the storm damaging fruit trees and houses whose rooftops had earlier been blown away by the winds.