JAMMU, FEB 23
The Jammu-Srinagar national highway, the only all-weather road linking Kashmir with the rest of the country, was closed for traffic on Wednesday due to landslides and fresh snowfall in Ramban district, officials said.
Many vehicles have been stranded at different points of the highway due to the closure.
“The highway was closed for vehicular movement due to landslides and shooting stones at many places and snow accumulation around the Navyug tunnel”, an official said.
Traffic has been halted at Cafeteria Morh Ramban, Maroog, Panthiyal and Sherbibi, they said.
“No fresh traffic is being allowed from Jammu or Srinagar”, a traffic police official said.
Meanwhile, Life was thrown out of gear in Kashmir as most areas of the valley received snowfall – the season’s first heavy fall in the plains – disrupting flight and railway operations and leading to the closure of the vital Srinagar-Jammu national highway, officials here said.
Most areas of the valley received moderate to heavy snowfall which started in the night and was going on when last reports came in, they said.
The areas in the higher reaches of the Union Territory received very heavy snowfall — around two feet or more, they said.
The officials said Srinagar – the summer capital of the union territory – recorded about eight inches of snow till this morning.
The authorities have pressed men and machinery into service to clear the snow off the roads, many of which, such as those leading to hospitals and other vital installations, are being cleared on priority, the officials said.
The bad weather affected the flight operations to and fro the Kashmir valley.
At least six flights at the Srinagar airport have been cancelled, and the rest have been delayed, the officials said.
The visibility at the airport dropped below 400 metres and the continuous snowfall was hampering the snow clearance operations, they said.
Train service between Baramulla and Banihal was suspended this morning due to the accumulation of snow on the railway tracks, the officials said.
The 300-km Jammu-Srinagar highway was closed as besides snowfall, it received heavy rains resulting in shooting stones at a few places, they said.
Traffic was barred on either side of the highway, the officials added.
The Meteorological department has said that a gradual decrease in rain and snow is expected from Wednesday afternoon, and there would be a significant improvement in the weather evening onwards.
Overall improvement is most likely from Thursday onwards. After this spell, there is no forecast of any major rain/snow till the end of this month, the Met office said.
The authorities have appealed to people to not move out of their homes unless absolutely necessary.
Snow clearance machines of MED (mechanical engineering department) and other departments are clearing the snow mechanically and manually from the main roads since early morning, but due to continuous snowfall, the roads are very slippery and there are chances of accidents, the authorities said in an advisory.
In the wake of the snowfall, Kashmir University postponed all examinations for the day.
However, The Divisional Commissioner (Div Com) Kashmir, Pandurang K Pole today said that all the essential services are being restored on a war footing basis for the convenience of the general public.
He informed that plain areas of South Kashmir received 2 to 3 feet Snow while Central Kashmir received 1 to 1.5 feet Snow and North Kashmir 0.5 to 1 feet besides hilly areas received 2 to 4 feet Snow which affected normal life and services.
Div Com said that the Mechanical Engineering Department completed 70% Snow clearance under Priority Phase-I while PWD cleared Snow from all the roads falling under its jurisdiction.
Besides, Div Com informed that apart from 5 to 6 percent water supply lines which have been affected, all other Water Supply Schemes are functional. He said that the affected WSSs will be restored soon for which men and machinery has been put on work.
Regarding the power scenario, Div Com said that 20 to 25 percent power lines have been affected due to Snowfall. He said the Divisional Administration is working to restore electricity to the affected areas by evening.
Div Com further informed that no casualty has been reported till now due to the Snow and said that all the hospitals are functional while entire medical and paramedics staff is available in hospitals to render their duties and services.
He said all essential services are being restored on priority and on a war footing basis.
Meanwhile, he appealed to the general people to keep patience and support the administration to restore affected services.
He also appealed to people not to park their vehicles on the road sides so that the Mechanical Engineering Department, PWD, SMC and other departments will not face any hindrance during Snow clearance.
Besides, he further appealed to people not to throw Snow of their lawns on the streets or lanes as it creates difficulties for the people and Snow clearing teams.
While showing pleasure for Snowfall, he said that Snow plays a very important role for prolific yield in agriculture and horticulture which form the backbone of the economy in the valley.
He said a good Snowfall is also pivotal for irrigation canals, irrigation systems besides resuscitating our springs which ensure constant supply of drinking water to various areas through WSSs.
While celebrating the latest Snowfall, the Div Com greeted people with “Jaan Sheen Mubarak” meaning Happy Good Snowfall.