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40 die as avalanches bury houses in J&K
Tribune News Service and Agencies

Srinagar/Shimla/Chandigarh, February 20
Forty persons were killed in house collapses triggered by avalanches and landslides in Jammu and Kashmir as the heaviest snowfall in a decade and a half paralysed normal life in the Kashmir Valley which remained cut off from the rest of the country for the third day today.

With power supply, telecom and road links severely hit, the state civil administration declared a red alert and sought the Army’s help in providing food, fuel and shelter to the needy and clear the vital road communication within and to the valley.

In Poonch district, a massive landslide set off by heavy rain and snow buried 12 houses, killing 21 persons in the Lowran area and 16 persons were killed in avalanche at Donegan village, the police said.

A Srinagar report said three persons were killed, one each in Anantnag, Gurez and Srinagar, and scores injured as 50 houses collapsed and avalanches hit the Kashmir valley taking the death toll to 12 in the past three days.

Kashmir Valley remained cut off from the rest of the world for the third day. The Srinagar-Jammu national highway remained closed and all flights to Srinagar remained suspended.

Even as the authorities claimed that snow-clearing machines had cleared all the inter-district and other roads in the valley, traffic remained off the road today.

In a state of emergency all the employees of the essential services departments have been asked to remain on duty to overcome the crisis caused by the unprecedented snowfall. Heavy snowfall of this magnitude around mid-February has been witnessed in the Valley after three decades. This has led to disruption in power supplies and communication facilities.

A defence spokesman here said that there was no trace of the six Beacon personnel buried under a snow avalanche near Jawahar Tunnel on Friday. However, efforts were on to trace out the personnel and also ensure early re-opening of the Srinagar-Jammu national highway, which has remained blocked due to avalanches and landslides since Thursday last.

Over 800 vehicles are stranded on the highway for the past four days.

The Beacon has also cleared the runway at the airport here to to facilitate the operation of flights. The state authorities have also approached the Army for airlifting of fresh vegetables from Jammu to Srinagar, which may be flown here in case of improvement in visibility and weather conditions.

The entire Kashmir Valley has been plunged into darkness with the disruption of all the three major transmission lines from Northern Grid due to snow avalanches in Jawahar Tunnel area. To overcome the power crisis in hospitals, major hospitals have been provided with additional quota of fuel for generators to maintain the power supplies. This was stated by Finance Minister Muzaffar Hussain Beigh, who visited various hospitals, hotels and other vital installations.

Most of the local newspapers were not published for the second consecutive day today due to shortage of power and lack of mobility.

To overcome the crisis, Director, Food and Supplies, Mr Khalid Habib, personally supervised the distribution system of LPG and kerosene oil to the consumers at its office today.

Meanwhile, 30 cm of snow has been reported from Chamba. The town remained cut off from the other parts of the state for the third day today, due to landslides at many places. Tourists resorts of Manali, Kufri, Narkanda, Dalhousie, Solang Nallah, Khadapathar, Chopal, Dodra Kawar received fresh snow today.

Dhauladhar ranges overlooking Kangra Valley are experiencing heavy snow. The weatherman has warned of more snow and rain during the next 24 hours. The minimum temperature at many places, including the capital town of Shimla, was minus 2 celsius while in the tribal districts it was minus 15 to minus 20 degree celsius.

Solang Nullah (4 cm) and Dhundi (12 cm) in Himachal Pradesh also received fresh snow. Temperatures dropped by several degrees in the region and Amritsar braved the chill recording a low of 3.6 C, three degrees below normal.

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