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Avalanches kill 82 more
300 ITBP men trapped in J&K; IAF mounts rescue sorties
S.P. Sharma and Ehsan Fazili
Tribune News Service

Jammu/Srinagar, February 21
More than 82 persons were killed when snowfall-triggered avalanches swept away their “kothars” in Qazigund and Dooru areas of Anantnag district in South Kashmir early this morning as the death toll in Jammu and Kashmir due to snowfall and avalanches crossed the 150 mark.

With the weather clearing the Indian Air Force launched a massive rescue operation. The youngest wing of the defence forces pressed the giant IL-76 and the AN-32 transport aircraft and the helicopters into service to rescue the stranded and rush food and other essential supplies.

300 personnel of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police were still trapped in the Jawahar Tunnel area which has been cut off for the last three days because of the heavy snow in that area.

While 66 bodies had been recovered in Qazigund area, 16 had been recovered in Dooru area of Anantnag district, the police said. The toll is expected to rise.

In Ladakh region at least 42 foreigners, who had been trapped due to heavy snowfall, were rescued by the IAF helicopters today. The trekkers participating in adventure tourism activity had gone missing due to heavy snowfall in Padam-Zanskar area of Kargil district, officials here confirmed. They belonged to France Germany, England and Switzerland.

The police in Anantnag said 66 bodies had been recovered in Nigeen Nar and Walteng villages of Qazigund, near the Jawahar tunnel area. At least three hamlets of Kund near Qazigund were swept away by the avalanches today.

A local news agency here reported that 97 bodies had so far been recovered while over 50 were still missing. The agency has put the death toll in snow avalanches and bad weather conditions to over 170 in the past three days, while damage was had been caused to over 500 villages across Kashmir valley.

The police, assisted by Army and residents of nearby villages were engaged in the rescue and recovery operations in Qazigund villages, police here said. the operations were hampered by heavy snow and bad weather conditions.

Three members of a family were among an unspecified number of persons who got buried when an avalanche hit eight houses in the Marwah area of Kishtwar in Doda district. A boy was killed due to landslide in the Kandi area of Rajouri.

The Army has extricated 13 bodies from snow in the Arigam village in Loran where about 20 persons were buried under an avalanche.

Another report said an avalanche in the Pinjrar village of Kishtwar destroyed about 30 houses last evening. However, the number of casualties was not yet known as the area is covered under 25 feet of snow.

Army and CRPF personnel were engaged in rescue operations in the Barchhari village of Rajouri where an avalanche hit last evening. Six bodies have so far been extricated and two women were still missing.

The GOC of the “Romeo Force”, Maj-Gen G.D. Bakshi, has given a cash relief of Rs 5000 to each family whose kin were killed. Rations are being provided to the affected families by the Army.

With avalanches continuing to hit the Jawahar Tunnel area, more than 300 ITBP personnel and passengers were trapped in the tunnel for the past three days. The tunnel is blocked with snow on the north. The southern side is being used for providing relief that was today airdropped by Army helicopters.

Food stuffs were airdropped in the Marwah, Dacchan and Paddar areas of the Doda district that were buried under 25 ft. of snow.

In a statement, the GoC-in-C of the Northern Command, Lt-Gen Hari Prasad, has said that there has been heavy snowfall, upto 15 ft. in certain places, and about 150 vehicles and 2000 civilians are stranded on the highway.

The Army is providing food and shelter to those in need and assistance to the civil administration. A red alert has been sounded in the valley, he said. The Army, Air Force and the civil administration were constantly monitoring the situation.

30 civilians trapped in an avalanche in Navapachhi have been rescued.

He said on the request of the civil administration, the Army has provided 75 kilo litres of petrol from its reserves to overcome the fuel shortage in the Kashmir valley. The Army has also undertaken clearance of major arterial roads leading to Srinagar and also the roads leading to hospitals. Medical teams of the Army have been deployed at various places.

The Army commander said all-out efforts are being made to open the Jammu-Srinagar highway. Avalanche rescue teams have been earmarked and are ready for action at short notice.

Meanwhile, reports said that the highway could not be reopened on the fifth day today and there was hope of making it fit for one way traffic by tomorrow afternoon.


Woman rescued after 50 hours under snow

Jammu, February 21
A 65-year-old woman in Jammu and Kashmir was rescued today after spending over 50 hours buried under tonnes of snow following an avalanche in a border area of the state.

Haniefa Begum's troubles began when an avalanche hit a cluster of 17 houses at Loren-Mandi in the border district of Poonch, 240 km north of here, Saturday night.

Indian soldiers launched a rescue operation soon after learning about the avalanche.

“The miracle was that we found Haniefa Begum alive. She was gasping for breath,” said Col. D.K. Badola, the army's spokesman in Jammu. — IANSBack


IAF air bridge to shift men, relief to Srinagar
Lalit Mohan
Tribune News Service

Pathankot, February 21
The Indian Air Force (IAF) constructed an air bridge tonight from Pathankot to Srinagar to shift men and material to the valley. A large number of transport aircraft took part in the operation that started at about 7.30 pm from Pathankot today.

A spokesperson for the IAF said the bridge was constructed as the Jammu-Srinagar national highway had been closed because of heavy snowfall. The air bridge would help clear the shortage of men and material in the valley.

The large transport aircraft of the IAF including IL-76, AN-32 and MI-17 are taking part in the operation. More than 2 lakh troops, 1600 civilians and a large amount of essential commodities would be shifted throughout the night into the valley through the air bridge.

The air bases at Udhampur and Jammu are also taking part in the operation to transport such a large number of men and material into the valley in such short time span.

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