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Avalanches kill 11 in HP, Kashmir
Heavy snow in region, thousands stranded
Tribune News Service and Agencies

Jammu/Srinagar/Shimla, February 7
Eight ITBP personnel were buried alive in an avalanche that struck their mountain barrack at Jawahar Tunnel on the Jammu-Srinagar highway which has been closed to vehicular traffic following warnings of more avalanches in the next two days due to heavy snowfall in the region.

The first avalanche struck an empty Indian Reserve Police post on the right of the tunnel at around 2.30 a.m. today on the highway about 180 km from here, the police said.

However a second avalanche struck an ITBP base camp at around 5.15 a.m. burying alive eight ITBP personnel, they said adding 10 others were missing of which seven were recovered alive in a critical condition. Three, including an IRP man, are still untraceable. The injured were hospitalised in Srinagar, they said.

Another avalanche in Kuhar Nallah in tribal Lahaul and Spiti district of Shimla in Himachal Pradesh buried three members of a family this morning. The three were on their way to Skoli when the avalanche hit them.

According to an official estimate there are at least 3,000 passengers stranded between Ramban and Qazigund, a stretch of less than 80 km on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway that is vulnerable to landslides and avalanches.

Heavy snow has made the highway slippery and dangerous. With more than 6 ft of snow on some stretches, no rescue mission is possible at the moment, say officials.

The officials said help had been sought from the Army to reach the stranded passengers.

"We are 'trying to shift them to specially constructed shelters along the highway.But it is proving to be a Herculean tasks because of the weather, said an official responsible for coordinating with the Army and other agencies.

The ITBP has established a camp on the top of the tunnel in Doda district of the Jammu region to thwart any militant attempt to damage the tunnel.

Sources said no vehicle was allowed to leave Jammu or Srinagar today.

Reports of heavy snowfall have also been received from the holy cave shrine of Amarnath, Sheshnag, Mahaguns, Pantherni and Pisso Top.

The world famous ski resort of Gulmarg and Khilanmarg also experienced fresh snowfall since last evening, much to the delight of skiers who had come from different parts of the country.

About 2 feet of fresh snowfall was also recorded at Zojila, the highest point on the 434-km-long Srinagar-Leh national highway, which was closed for six months in November due to snowfall.

A report from Baramula said several roads to far-flung areas, including Keran, Karnah, Machil, Teetwal and Sadhna pass have been closed due to heavy snowfall.

At least three persons were killed in an avalanche near Udaipur in the tribal Lahaul-Spiti district today.

According to reports reaching here, the avalanche struck when the victims were crossing the Uri nullah. The deceased were identified as Uttam, his sister Namdasi and niece Devdasi.

Meanwhile, widespread heavy snow and rain disrupted life in the hill state.

The entire tribal belt and higher and mid-hill areas of Kulu, Shimla, Sirmaur, Mandi and Chamba district were having intermittent snow since last evening. While Narkanda, Manali, Kharapathar and Dalhousie were under 30 to 40 cm of snow, the higher reaches like Hatu peak, Solang, Marhi, Churdhar and Chanshsal slopes had received 60 to 80 cm of snow by the evening.

Key tourist resorts of Kufri, Narkanda, Manali and Dalhousie were cut off from the rest of the state, as all approach roads were blocked due to heavy snow. Mount Jakhu, the highest peak of the city, had recorded 30 cm of snow and the nearby tourist resorts of Kufri and Fagu had 40 cm of snow. The lower areas of the city had sleet and rain. The local met office recorded 33 cm of snow over the past 24 hours.

Kinnaur and upper areas of Shimla were cut off from the rest of the state as heavy snow blocked the Hindustan-Tibet road beyond Dhalli. The upper areas of Kulu and Mandi were also cut off as most of the link road were under a thick blanket of snow.

Residents of Rohru, Jubbal Kotkhai, Khara Pathar, Theog and other towns in Upper Shimla had to go without the daily necessities like newspapers, milk, bread and vegetables. High velocity winds uprooted trees at several places, affecting telecommunication and power supply in some areas.

The Rampur-bound traffic was diverted via Basantpur. No buses could be plied to the Upper Shimla area. A spokesman of the state road transport corporation said bus service would be resumed to Rohru via Panota if the route via Kufri could not be opened by tomorrow.

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