Avalanche Hits Gulmarg; Swiss Skier Killed, 2 Injured

Avalanche Hits Gulmarg; Swiss Skier Killed, 2 Injured

24 January 2014
The Daily Excelsior
Fayaz Bukhari

Srinagar: A Swiss Skier was killed and two others received minor injuries when an avalanche hit Gulmarg this morning. The Senior Superintendent of Police Baramulla, Zubair Ahmad Khan, told Excelsior that an avalanche hit Gulmarg this morning when a group of Swiss Skiers were skiing in Kangdori and Affarwat area of Gulmarg. “Arno Roy, 59, was found dead by the rescuers while two of them were rescued with minor injuries by the rescuers of Police and Ski patrol team. Body had been brought to the hospital and it will be dispatched after completion of the legal formalities”, he added. Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Shailender Kumar, has appointed District Magistrate, Baramulla, Ghulam Mohammad Khawaja, as Enquiry Officer to ascertain the cause of death of the skier. The District Magistrate, Baramulla has been asked to complete the enquiry and submit the report within 5 days to the Government. Kumar said that Medico Legal formalities of the deceased are being completed and the Swiss Embassy has been informed about Roy’s death. The Officer Incharge Gulmarg Ski Patrol, Ghulam Mohammad Dar, told Excelsior that these skiers were skiing in back country, away from the safe zone declared by its experts when an avalanche was triggered. Dar said that 16 member Ski patrol team gets expert advice from its expert Collin Mitchel who has been hired by the Department of Tourism for maintaining the safety of Ski slopes of Gulmarg. The head of the Ski petrol team said that every morning the patrol holds a meeting at around 8 a.m. before the team is deployed along the Ski slopes for the safety of the skiers. Dar said that the Swiss group had gone out of the designated area during skiing and Roy who was killed triggered a snow avalanche after he entered into a zone against the advice of his guide, John Folkner who was accompanying the group. The officer said that incident took place at 11.45 p.m. and Ski petrol team reached to the spot in seven minutes. He said that at around 11:55 a.m. Roy’s body was found. He said that two other skiers were rescued with minor injuries. The ski petrol head said that these six Swiss skiers arrived in Gulmarg on January 19. He said some of the foreign skiers on their own risk and responsibility go for skiing in non-designated areas. He said that the boundaries of the ski slope are marked and skiers are briefed about it. Dar said that despite warning and advisories some skiers ski in the areas where ski patrol team does not patrol for safety of the skiers. The Meteorological Department had issued avalanche warning in the hilly areas of Kashmir where there was heavy snowfall. The areas where the skiers were skiing has a snow depth of over 5 feet. In February 2010, 17 Army personnel were killed in Gulmarg when an avalanche hit their High Altitude Warfare School. In the meantime after the improvement in weather, around 3000 vehicles crossed the Banihal tunnel by this evening from Jammu to Srinagar after the highway was re-opened for fresh traffic today. The Highway was closed on Wednesday after heavy snowfall in Kashmir valley. Inspector General of Police, Traffic, Muneer Ahmad Khan, said that around 3000 vehicles moved from Jammu in the morning and majority of them crossed the Banihal Tunnel this evening. He, however, said that the highway will remain closed for the night due to slippery roads conditions caused by freezing in Banihal and Patnitop areas. Khan said that traffic will be allowed to move from Srinagar to Jammu tomorrow, however, no traffic will be allowed from Jammu to Srinagar. And after heavy snowfall earlier this week, Kashmir today remained in a grip of cold wave as maximum day temperature recorded in Srinagar was 4.9 degree Celsius while minimum was 0.9 degree Celsius. Gulmarg recorded a low of minus 8.4 degree Celsius, Pahalgam minus 5.5 degree Celsius, Qazigund minus 1.0 degree Celsius, Kupwara 0.7 degree Celsius, Kokernag minus 1.3 degree Celsius, Leh minus 4.0 degree Celsius and Kargil minus 18.4 degree Celsius. Pahalgam recorded a maximum of 1.3 degree Celsius, Qazigund 3.2 degree Celsius, Kupwara 4.3 degree Celsius, Kokernag 1.4 degree Celsius, Leh 4.5 degree Celsius and Kargil minus 1.7 degree Celsius. Jammu recoded a maximum of 20.6 degree Celsius and minimum of 6.8 degree Celsius.