January 2017 News

Kashmir Snowfall Heaviest In 20 Years, Say Locals After Valley Cut Off From Rest Of India

28 January 2017
The Indian Express

Srinagar: Heavy snowfall in Kashmir over the past one week has cut off the state from the rest of the country. Locals on Saturday said they haven't witnessed such heavy snowfall in the last 20 years. Surface and air links between the Kashmir Valley and the rest of the country remained shut as continuous snowfall disrupted normal life. However, the airport opened on Friday but with sky rocketing ticket prices. The all-weather Srinagar-Jammu National Highway remained closed choking supply of essentials to the Valley where prices of commodities have more than doubled in the past week. No vehicles were allowed to ply as the roads were rendered slippery. The snowfall and rains have triggered avalanches and slides blocking roads at several places. In separate accidents, this week, three avalanches hit Army posts and patrol at Gurez and Kupwara in the Valley. On January 25, an Army post and a patrol were hit by two separate avalanches in Tulail area of remote Gurez valley near the Line of Control (LoC). Officials said that Tulail received 9 feet snow in the fresh spell, while other parts of Gurez received 7 feet. On Saturday, at least five soldiers were feared to be trapped after an Army post caved in under heavy snow in north Kashmir's Kupwara district near LoC. However, the trapped personnel were rescued successfully and have been undergoing treatment. Before the avalanche hit theses places, local authorities had issued a high danger avalanche warning for the hilly areas of Kashmir valley, urging locals to keep clearing snow deposits from roof tops of their houses and bunkers to avoid any damage. Earlier this week, all flights to and from the Srinagar International Airport remained suspended due to poor visibility. According to airport officials, flight operation status would be reviewed depending on improvement in visibility. However, the air traffic resumed at Srinagar International Airport on Friday after remaining suspended for three days due to snowfall. But fresh snowfall affected the air traffic as the bad weather forced cancellation of eight flights on Saturday, officials said. 'Eight flights which were scheduled to operate after 1230 hours got cancelled due to bad weather,' an official of the Airport Authority of India told reporters. On Friday, people stuck in Kashmir had to pay a fare of Rs 73,647 to get the cheapest flight ticket from Srinagar too Mumbai. By the evening, all tickets to Mumbai were sold out for the weekend. It was a similar story for those hoping to reach Delhi. The Friday morning fare for Saturday was Rs 17,300 but by evening, no tickets were available to the national capital for the weekend on any airline, including Air India, the national carrier. Fresh snowfall has also disrupted inter-district road connectivity between Srinagar and other district headquarters. Electricity supply in the valley has been badly affected. People, early this week, staged protests against the power development department recently. Engineers of the department asserted they have been working round the clock to ensure restoration of electricity disrupted due to snowfall. Earlier this week, Srinagar, the summer capital of the state, received two cm of snow, and the mercury settled at the low of minus 0.8 degree Celsius and Pahalgam health resort, which also serves as a base camp for the annual Amarnath Yatra, recorded 23 cm of snowfall and the mercury there settled at a low of minus 2.2 degrees Celsius. Leh in Ladakh region was the coldest recorded place in the Kashmir division on Friday night as the mercury plummeted to minus 10.1 degrees Celsius from Thursday night's low of minus 5.1 degrees Celsius, an official of the MET department said. Gulmarg in north Kashmir Baramulla district recorded a low of minus 6.6 degrees Celsius Thursday night while most other places also witnessed temperatures around the freezing point.