M A I N   N E W S

Kashmir cut off and in darkness
14 buried in snow
Tribune News Service and Agencies

Srinagar, Shimla, Chandigarh, February 19
At least 14 persons including four Border Roads Organisation (BRO) personnel, were feared killed and nearly 35 others were trapped in several houses in Jammu and Kashmir, where heavy snowfall and continuous rains for the past two days have forced the closure of the Jammu-Srinagar highway and several roads linking remote corners with main towns.

Two workers engaged in road clearing work were buried under snow while two were rescued in a critical condition.

The search for seven Beacon personnel who were buried under snow avalanche near the north portal of Jawahar Tunnel on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway yesterday continued for the second consecutive day today. The Army had already rescued 20 Beacon personnel and two scribes as three snow avalanches hit the area yesterday, leading to the blockade of the highway the lifeline to Kashmir valley, for the third consecutive day today.

The Kashmir valley is also reeling under heavy snowfall, and remains cut off from the rest of the world both through surface link and air links. No flights could be operated to Srinagar since yesterday due to heavy downpour in the entire region.

According to a Beacon spokesman, the Jawahar Tunnel area on the vital Srinagar-Jammu national highway witnessed seven snow avalanches yesterday and there were forecasts of more avalanches in the region for the next couple of days. The heavy downpour has also affected the connectivity in Kashmir valley as BSNL mobiles were not functional and there was a lot of damage to the power lines and telephone lines.

As heavy rain and snowfall hit the area and entire Kashmir valley since Thursday night, the 294-km-long Srinagar-Jammu national highway was closed to traffic for the third consecutive day today due to heavy snowfall and rains and landslides in Banihal-Ramban area. More that 80 Jammu-bound vehicles and 738 Srinagar-bound passenger vehicles and load carriers were stranded on the highway.

The Kashmir valley is witnessing heaviest snowfall of the season since Thursday last plunging it into darkness and out of gear. The 132-KV Chenani-Srinagar transmission line was again damaged yesterday leaving the valley in complete darkness with an availability of only 100 MW of power against over 900 MW demand. This has also led to shortage of drinking water in urban areas.

According to a spokesman of the Beacon project, the city witnessed two and a half feet of snow since Thursday as it continued today as well. This led to disruption in traffic on the inter- district routes. Over 37 dozers have been pressed into service to clear the roads of snow, according to Chief Engineer, R&B, which have already cleared snow and restored traffic on the inter-district routes. The other routes in Srinagar city would be cleared and made traffic worthy by this evening, the Chief Engineer said.

Shimla and its adjoining areas experienced another spell of snowfall this afternoon, bringing down the day temperature considerably in the region.

The ski slopes of Kufri and tourist resorts of Narkanda, Naldehra, Wildflower Hall, Fagu and Khadapather in the district experienced moderate snowfall today.

People continued to shiver under intense cold wave conditions as the night temperature remained low in the entire tribal district of the state.

There was no let-up in the cold wave in Shimla where the minimum temperature was 0.5 degree Celsius. Icy cold winds swept the town and the skies remained overcast throughout the day today.

Chamba and its surrounding areas remained cut off from the rest of the country for the second day today, due to the blockage of the Chamba-Pathankot national highway by landslides at different places following heavy continued downpour in the last 48 hours, a report from Chamba said.

The Chamba-Pathankot highway is the only lifeline which links the town with the outer world. The road blocked at Keru Pahar, Parel and Kandoo.

Main stations of Punjab and Haryana which were lashed by continuous rainfall since this morning included Patiala, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Balachaur, Amritsar, Ambala, Karnal and Kurukshetra.

Chandigarh and its surrounding areas of Punjab and Haryana also had rainfall. The day temperature in Chandigarh dropped by 8 degrees, to be recorded at 15°C from yesterday’s 23.2°C. 

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