NH, Many Other Roads Closed; 4000 Vehicles Stranded

16 March 2015
The Daily Excelsior
Gopal Sharma and Fayaz Bukhari

Jammu: Incessant rains and heavy snowfall have created havoc across the State, snapping air and land link to Kashmir and closure of Doda-Kishtwar-Bhaderwah and many other roads due to landslides while over 4000 vehicles have been stranded on both sides of Jammu- Srinagar National Highway and on Batote- Kishtwar link. Due to heavy snowfall in Kashmir, all the Srinagar bound flights were cancelled as the entire airport and runway was covered by nearly 7-8 inch snow. The rain and snowfall continued even during the morning hours and in the evening. At Jawahar Tunnel, there was nearly 1.5 to 2 ft snow in the morning while Banihal town also experienced nearly one foot snowfall today. Patnitop also witnessed nearly 6-7 inch snowfall today. Several rivers in Jammu region including Tawi, Ujh and Chenab were flooded but all were flowing below danger mark. A portion of approach road to 4th Tawi bridge near Bhagwati Nagar was washed away this morning forcing R&B authorities to close one tube of the double lane bridge. This is the second time that portion of bridge washed away due to attitude to neglect by the concerned R&B authorities. A large portion had washed away during September 2014 floods but only temporary restoration work was done and no concrete protection wall as emergency measures was done by the R&B. Moreover, the Administration did not fix responsibility on any agency or an official. A 65-year old man was killed when an avalanche struck his house in South Kashmir following heavy snowfall in Kashmir valley that disrupted normal life across Valley. Reports said Gulshan Nabi Bimla, son of Mir Hussain, resident of Saas Khudan, Ring Mandu in Dooru Shshabad area of Anantnag district died after an avalanche hit his house this afternoon. The man was buried under the snow avalanche. His dead body was retrieved by local people. The area witnessed four feet of snow and it is still snowing in the area. Army and civil administration today rescued people from avalanche prone area in Kandi belt region in the foothills or Pir Panjal in Kulgam district. Around 80 people were rescued and shifted to safer places at Antar Nar and Waltengu Nar Devsar block. Subsequently, Army was roped in and the rescue and relocation process was carried out. Due to the well coordinated disaster management set up in the area, nearly 80 people of 23 families were rescued from Antar Nar and Waltengu Nar villages at Pir Panjal. These families were rescued and were relocated to Naubug school. The Army also provided winter clothing, food items and 30 sleeping bags to the people. The local administration provided them ration and shelter. The Divisional Administration has issued snow avalanche warning in the hills of Kashmir following heavy snowfall for past two days asking people in the avalanche prone areas to stay indoors or making their movements carefully. 'As per communication of Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, medium danger of avalanche warning exists from March 16 to March 17, 2015 in avalanche prone areas of Bandipora, Baramulla, Anantnag, Kulgam, Pulwama, Ganderbal and Kupwara districts of Kashmir division', said an official statement. Deputy Commissioners of Kupwara, Baramulla, Bandipora, Anantnag, Kulgam, Pulwama and Ganderbal districts have been asked to advise people not to venture out in avalanche prone areas. People of these areas are also advised to temporarily evacuate those locations which are under fall line of avalanches. A Meteorological Department official said here that the weather will improve from Tuesday. The official said that the heavy snowfall and rains were caused by western disturbance over Jammu and Kashmir. However, he said that mainly dry weather will prevail in the State after Wednesday. The Jammu-Srinagar national highway remained closed for traffic due to heavy snowfall in Banihal tunnel area and landslides between Banihal and Udhampur at a dozen places. Inspector General of Traffic Police told Excelsior that Srinagar-Jammu highway remained closed for traffic due to heavy snowfall between Qazigund to Banihal. He said that around 2 feet fresh snow accumulated on either side of Jawahar Tunnel and around one and half feet in Banihal area. He said that landslides at Khairi, Udhampur, Ramsu, Panthal and other places also blocked the highway. He said some vehicles were cleared towards Jammu till late last night. The hills in Kashmir experienced heavy snowfall and at places around 2 to 5 feet snow has accumulated over the past one month. The snowfall has led the closure of hilly roads. No flight landed or took off from Srinagar International Airport due to continuous snowfall and low visibility. Hundreds of passengers, including tourists, were stranded after all scheduled flights were cancelled today due to bad weather. An Airport official said that all the 14 flights scheduled for the day were cancelled due to bad weather. There has been heavy rush of passengers at the airport in view of the closure of the national highway. The airport official said if weather permits, additional flights would be made available tomorrow to meet the heavy rush of the passengers. The train service also remained suspended in the Kashmir valley due to snowfall. This is the third time in the month of March that rail service in the Valley was suspended due to snowfall. A railway official said that rail service from Srinagar to Baramulla in North Kashmir has been suspended as a precautionary measure due to snowfall and the rail run from Srinagar to Anantnag and Qazigund in South Kashmir and Banihal in Jammu region has been suspended as the track remained under snow. In Srinagar the continuous snowfall since last night caused water logging. There was over one feet of water at several places on main roads even in City Centre Lal Chowk and Jehangir Chowk areas. The water level in the rivers and streams has risen causing serious concern to the common people especially people living in the flood prone areas. The schools upto middle class that were scheduled to re-open after winter break today were closed for the day due to heavy snowfall. However, children in several areas were seen waiting for the school buses. The traffic on the roads was skeletal as majority of the roads were slippery due to snowfall. There were traffic jams at places. Jammu and Kashmir Board of School Education (JKBOSE) today postponed 10th class exam scheduled for Tuesday (tomorrow) in Kashmir division due to inclement weather conditions. A spokesman said that the fresh dates will be announced separately. Meanwhile, SSP National Highway Sanjay Kotwal told the Excelsior that Jammu-Srinagar National Highway is closed since yesterday and over 1500 vehicles are stranded between Chenani and Udhampur as nearly 50 meters of highway has been washed away at Kheri landslide zone about 5 kms ahead of Udhampur. Big boulders from the mountain have rolled down creating blockade. He said due to continuous rain the restoration work could be carried out today. The GREF officials told that if the weather improves, nearly 7-8 hours are needed to clear the road at this point. Mr Kotwal further disclosed that nearly one and half to 2 feet snowfall has been recorded in Jawahar Tunnel area and about one foot in Banihal town and adjoining areas. Under such circumstances, there are bleak chances of road clearance so early. Many vehicles have been stranded on that side of the Tunnel as well. No Kashmir bound vehicles could leave from Jammu and Udhampur areas and they too, remain stranded. He said about 1500 vehicles including about 350 passenger vehicles have been stranded between Chenani and Kheri sliding zone. Mr Kotwal said if the weather improved the highway would be cleared by tomorrow afternoon. But about dozen landslides have taken place between Batote-Ramban and Banihal including Nashri, Chanderkote, Seri, Naroge bridge, Hingni, Magarkote, Gangroo, Panthyal and Khuni Nallah. The SSP said that Batote- Kishtwar road is also blocked at least at six places. He said fresh landslides have taken place at Kaurha Pani, Raggi Nalla, Khileni and Malhori area. The road was also blocked at two places between Doda and Kishtwar. Pul Doda and Bhaderwah road is also closed due to landslides. There was 6 inch snowfall at Patnitop and Bhaderwah and the traffic has been suspended. Reports said that about one thousand vehicles have been stranded on that side of the Tunnel while over 1500 trucks and other load carriers Nagrota Bypass, Udhampur-Manwal Dhar Road and Udhampur -Bypass besides Samba-Nud and Dalaya Chak- Dinga Amb- Challan road. As the vehicles could not leave for Srinagar and other destinations of Doda-Kishtwar, a large number of passengers have been stranded at Jammu Bus Stand. Reports from Doda said that Bhaderwah town experienced 6-8 inch snowfall. There is no electricity and water supply in the town since yesterday. Ramban and Banihal towns are also without electricity. Maitra Power Grid developed some mechanical snag last evening during rains and the supply has been snapped. In Ramban town a stationary car was buried under debris and two houses were also damaged in landslides. About half a dozen houses are reported to have been damaged in Ramban district since yesterday in rains. Kishtwar-Chhatroo-Chingam, Thathri Gandoh, Doda-Dessa, Kishtwar- Paddar Gulabgarh roads are also closed. Reports of four houses collapse have also received from Kishtwar and Doda but no loss of life has been reported. Three MLAs from Ramban, Bhaderwah and Doda and a Minister of State from Kishtwar -Sunil Sharma have also been struck on the road since morning. Two Kashmir MLAs hailing from Anantnag who were on way to Jammu have also been trapped on the road in Banihal area. In Gulabgarh area of Mahore in district Reasi at least a dozen houses have been damaged. 42 members of six families were shifted to safer locations after landslides hit village Fagiala today. The victims whose houses were damaged have been identified as Roshan Din, Shakeel Ahmed, sons of Wali Mohammed, Abdul Rashid, son of Abdul Subhan, Abdul Majid and Abdul Rashid, sons of Ghulam Mohammed and Tajo Begum, widow of Abdul Gaffar. These families have taken refuge in the houses of other villagers. The road link to Mahore and Gool from Reasi and Mahore to Gulabgarh and Chasana-Budhal was also closed due to many landslides. In Udhampur, Ramnagar-Majori and Dudu- Basantgarh and Pancheri-Landhar roads were also closed. A Mata Vaishnodevi Shrine Board official told the Excelsior that Helicopter service to cave shrine from Katra base camp remained suspended due to bad weather. However, yatra continued despite continuous rain. Reports from Rajouri and Poonch said that about 18 houses and four cattle sheds were damaged in Mendhar and Surankote area, a dozen houses in Budhal (Kewal), Kotranka and Thannamandi areas since last night. Three houses collapsed at Kewal village, three at Saraj, two at Hubi and four at Rajdhani, Chhrung and Thannamandi. In Poonch, the temporary bridge on Poonch river also suffered damage while Mandi-Loran and Saujian roads remained closed due to landslides and snowfall. The vehicles have been diverted via Kalai bridge. In Jammu city water logging at several places created problem for the people and also disrupted movement of traffic. Many seasonal over flooded nallahs disrupted movement of traffic in Kathua, Samba, Purmandal and Akhnoor areas. The attendance in the offices also remained thin due to heavy rain. The highway remained blocked at Ramnagar Morh near Pir Baba about 2 kms from Jammu. The traffic remained disrupted for over two hours. Heavy traffic jam was created for long there.