M A I N   N E W S

11,000 troops airlifted
Choppers on rescue mission in snow-hit Kashmir
Tribune Reporters and Agencies

Jammu, February 10
While the Indian Air Force carried out major operations for airlifting Army-men stranded on the 300-km long Jammu-Srinagar National Highway during the past five days, six persons, including four children, were killed in three separate places owing to avalanches and land slides.

According to the police, four children were killed when the house in which they were living in village Darhalta in the Billawar area of Kathua district collapsed today. Parents of the killed children were away when the house collapsed owing to heavy rain.

In the Reasi area Bashir Ahmed was killed and his sister was injured when they were hit by a landslide while walking on the road. In village Londi in the Kishtwar area Ramesh Kumar was buried under an avalanche. His body was retrieved later.

Meanwhile, the Air Force pressed into service three aircraft, including the 60-seater AN-32, for airlifting Army men stranded at different places on the highway.

Wing Commander Vivek Savelkar said that about 11,000 Army men were airlifted and the aircraft carried out eight to nine sorties a day.

Constable Villango and Havildar S.N. Singh said that they were stranded near Banihal where the highway had been buried under seven feet snow. “We were airlifted by the Air Force aircraft. They said while some of the Army men were brought to Jammu others were taken to Srinagar as they had to join their duty.”

The Air Force aircraft also dropped food packets for passengers stranded on the highway.

The police said that while 165 stranded vehicles were assisted in their journey from Banihal to Jammu, those bound for Srinagar could not move from Banihal as the highway from the tunnel to Anantnag remained buried under eight feet snow.

According to the Minister of State for Transport, Mr Raman Bhalla, about 3,000 passengers had remained stranded on the highway at different places. He said that the stranded passengers were being assisted in seeking shelter in private houses, shops and mosques. According to PTI, over 300 passengers had already been airlifted to Jammu from Banihal and other places en route the highway and most of them were old people, children and tourists.

Mr Bhalla said that the men of the Border Roads Organisation, the police and the Army were trying against all odds to restore the National Highway for traffic.

He said additional snow clearance machines, nine dozers and other equipment had been pressed into service for road clearance operations.

Latest reports said that fresh landslides at Panthal, 165 km from Jammu, on the highway affected the road clearance operations.

Despite the constraints of weather due to snowfall and rain, the IAF pilots of No 12 wing based in Chandigarh were braving all odds to undertake both day and night operations, the sources said.

SHIMLA: There was no respite from extreme cold as snow and rain continued to lash the state for the fifth consecutive day today.

The tribal belt, the Churdhars, Chanshal slopes and other mountain ranges had a fresh round of snow today. While the famous tourist resort of Narkanda received more snow, the city and its surrounding areas had rain in the evening. The people across the state reeled under arctic conditions as sky remained overcast throughout the day.

The city had received 9 mm of rain by the evening. While the minimum temperature rose to 2.2 degree Celsius, the maximum remained pegged at 7.5 degree Celsius.

Workers of the Public Works Department were busy clearing the Hindustan-Tibet Road near Narkanda, which is under three feet of snow. However, there effort was in vain as it started snowing again in the evening. The Rampur-bound traffic continued to ply via Basantpur.

Meanwhile, habitants in the top hilly areas have been warned of snow avalanches and advised to stay indoor as the snowfall and rain continued in upper and lower areas of Himachal Pradesh.

Meanwhile, further fall in the minimum temperature has paralysed normal life activities in the state.


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