M A I N   N E W S

175 bodies found in Banihal
250 still missing in J&K; 311 safe in Jawahar Tunnel
Tribune News Service And IANS

Srinagar, February 22
Rescuers dug out more bodies buried by avalanches in Jammu and Kashmir, taking the death toll to over 300 after the worst snowfall in 15 years in the state.

Officials said troops and rescue workers had found 175 bodies in the Banihal area that was hit by a massive avalanche on Saturday night.

At least 100 persons from three villages buried under snow near Verinag in Banihal, 110 km from Srinagar, are still missing, they said.

At least 40 other deaths in avalanches have been reported in Jammu region.

Sonia Gandhi will fly into Jammu for a meeting with senior state officials before travelling to Srinagar on Wednesday.

The joint rescue operations launched by the police and the Army are continuing to trace out over 250, still reported missing in the snow avalanche hit area of Qazigund, near Jawahar Tunnel area.

The death toll in two avalanche-hit areas of the nearby Dooru, has gone up to 25. Eleven bodies, including that of four children, four women, and three male members had been recovered in Rangmandoo area of Dooru in Anantnag district that witnessed over 17 ft of snow. Two injured children in the age group of 10 to 11 years were also rescued. In another continuing rescue operation in Halsidar area of Dooru, 14 bodies had so far been recovered, while two persons had been rescued alive.

The Army, however, has put the death toll at 110 in south Kashmir district of Anantnag including 78 in snow avalanche hit area of Qazigund and 16 others in Dooru area close to the Peer Panchal range. Of the 78 killed, 66 bodies were recovered in Kund Qazigund area yesterday, while 12 were recovered today. Those recovered yesterday included 26 children, 18 women and 22 male members, Maj-Gen R.S. Mehta, officiating GoC of 15 Corps, told a Press conference. Two persons had been rescued alive in the area, while 25 were rescued in an injured condition, and were being given medical aid.

Residents of high reaches in the Kashmir valley have been asked to move to safe places in view of the snow avalanche forecasts in these areas over the next two weeks.

The 15 Corps Commander said 311 persons were safe inside the Jawahar Tunnel since Friday last, who had been asked to stay on to ensure their safety. They included some persons of the Beacon Project of the Border Roads Organization (BRO), ITBP men, a BSF jawan, two scribes, some civilian labourers and truck drivers. They had gone to rescue six personnel of the Beacon from snow avalanches on Friday last, some of whom had been rescued. All the remaining six Beacon personnel are feared dead. Those inside the tunnel have sufficient quantity of food, and essential supplies, as over 1700 kg of supplies were dropped on both sides of the tunnel for these people from the Army. They will not be allowed to leave the tunnel, unless the imminent snow avalanche threat is over and the road opened to traffic.

There was over 14 ft of snow at the Banihal top, while 10 to 12 ft snow was recorded on either sides of the Jawahar Tunnel, Army officials said.

Lt-Col V.K. Batra, Defence PRO here, accompanying some other officers during an aerial visit to the avalanche-affected area near Qazigund to oversee the rescue operation said that slight movement of residents could be traced today. “More than 10 ft of snow makes it difficult for movement from one house to another”, he commented.

Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopters dropped food packets for the second day for some 300 personnel of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and Border Roads Organisation taking shelter in the 2.5-km Jawahar Tunnel.

“Helicopter sorties have also been started for dropping food packets in the three Pir Panjal villages that had been washed away by avalanches. The rescue operation is still continuing in these villages where tribal Gujjars live in small huts that could not resist the avalanches,” an Army official told reporters here.

The Ramban-Jammu stretch of the Jammu-Srinagar highway was cleared of snow today and opened to vehicular traffic. The Banihal-Jammu stretch was likely to be made operational tomorrow.

It could take two to three more days to clear the snow at Jawahar Tunnel. After that, the Jammu-Srinagar road was likely to be thrown open to traffic.


Troops face 70 ft of snow in Uri sector
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, February 22
Faced with the highest level of snow — 70 ft in Uri sector — troops along the LoC in Kashmir are “fighting a grim battle to survive”, while they continue to defend the borders.

The only life-saving tool with them is the spade to slide down the heavy snow from their bunkers in the high mountain ranges along the borders around the landlocked valley. “If they do not make use of it for an hour or so, they would be buried alive”, said Maj-Gen R.S. Mehta, officiating GoC of the 15 Corps here today.

Maj-Gen Mehta was addressing a Press conference at the 15 Corps Headquarters over the Army’s rescue operations in the areas hit by snow avalanche in Qazigund area of Anantnag district in South Kashmir. He said despite the difficulties faced by the troops, they were in “good cheer”.

Giving further details, Maj-Gen Mehta said in Uri sector, the accumulated level of snow was 70 ft, while it was 66 ft. in Gulmarg sub-sector, where the troops are also deployed. On the average the level of snow was somewhere between 20 ft and 25 ft, he said.Back

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