CRPF SI, woman killed in snowfall related incidents in Kashmir; 8 persons rescued along NH

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Jammu records 50.1 mm rainfall; flights suspended, highway closed; avalanche warning issued

STATE TIMES NEWS
Srinagar: A CRPF officer and a 74-year-old woman died on Wednesday in separate incidents triggered by heavy snowfall in Kashmir while eight people were rescued after their vehicles got trapped in a mudslide near Panthiyal along the Jammu-Srinagar national highway, officials said.
Sub Inspector H C Murmur of the 115 battalion the CRPF, who was guard incharge, sustained injuries due to collapse of the guard room at the residence of National Conference leader Mohammad Sayeed Akhoon due to snowfall, a police official said.
He said the injured CRPF personnel was rushed to SKIMS hospital where he succumbed.
In another incident, a woman identified as Rahmi Begum died on the spot after she came under snow in Kupwara district, the official said.
Dozens of structures have collapsed or suffered damage due to the heavy snowfall in Kashmir since Sunday.
As the snowfall continued in many places of the valley especially in south Kashmir, authorities have evacuated many families from avalanche prone areas to safer areas.
Eight people were rescued after their vehicles got trapped in a mudslide near Panthiyal along the Jammu-Srinagar national highway, officials said.
The 270-km highway was closed for traffic on Sunday following heavy snowfall and incessant rains which triggered multiple landslides and shooting of stones from the hillocks.
The eight people hailing from Rajasthan were going towards Jammu in two cars when they were caught in a mudslide near Panthiyal in Ramban district on Tuesday evening amid heavy rains, the officials said.
Both the vehicles were damaged in the incident, they said, adding the eight were returning to Jammu after being stranded en route to Kashmir for the last several days.
Jammu and Kashmir Disaster Management Authority (DMA), in the meantime, has issued high, medium and low level avalanche warning for higher reaches of avalanche prone areas of Jammu and Kashmir.
As per a communiqué received in this regard, high danger level avalanche warning has been issued for higher reaches of Poonch, Ramban, Doda, Kishtwar, Anantnag, Baramulla, Kupwara Bandipora and Kulgam districts.
Similarly, medium level avalanche warning has been issued for higher reaches of Rajouri, Udhampur, Ganderbal and Reasi districts. As such, people living in these areas have been advised to take precautions and avoid going to the vulnerable areas and to remove snow from their rooftops to avoid loss of lives.
Meanwhile, with the improvement in the weather, agencies have pressed their men and machines to clear the highway of over a dozen landslides between Nashri to Ramsu.
Jawahar Tunnel, the gateway to Kashmir, recorded over five feet of snow since Saturday and the Border Roads Organsiation (BRO), which is maintaining this stretch of the highway, has intensified its snow clearance operation, the officials said.
Over 6000 vehicles, mostly trucks including those carrying essential commodities to the valley, have been stranded at various locations along the highway.
The road clearance operation is going on at a war footing to ensure early restoration of traffic on the highway which is blocked at over a dozen places including Samroli, Nashri, Dalwas, Peera, Chanderkote, Cafeteria Morh, Marog, Monkey Morh, Moompassi, Seeri, Kela Morh, Panthiyal, Sherbibi, Rattanbass and Ramsu, a traffic department official said.
He said it is premature to say whether the road would be cleared by this evening. Once the road is cleared, the preference would be given to stranded vehicles, he said, adding the traffic on the highway will remain restricted to one-way as per the already announced schedule in view of ongoing work on the four-laning project.
In Jammu, incessant downpour threw life out of gear during the last three days with the city recording 50.1 mm rainfall in a 24-hour period, its second-highest for the month of January in 20 years, Meteorological department officials said here.
The showers, however, stopped this morning, bringing some relief to residents.
“Jammu recorded 50.1 mm of rainfall during the past 24 hours. This was the second-highest in the past two decades as the city had recorded the all-time high of 81.4 mm rainfall on January 13, 2000,” a spokesperson of the department said.
He said the city had recorded 47.7 mm rainfall on January 26, 2017.
The spokesperson said the minimum temperature in the city settled at 12.1 degrees Celsius, which is 4.7 notches above normal for this part of the season.
Triggered by heavy rainfall, the river Tawi went into spate but it was flowing below the danger level.
Banihal town along the Jammu-Srinagar national highway was recorded as the coldest place in the Jammu region at a low of 0.2 degree Celsius. The highway town witnessed 80.4 mm of rain and snow during a 24-hour period ending at 8.30 am, the spokesperson said.
Katra, the base camp for the pilgrims visiting the Vaishno Devi Shrine in Reasi district, recorded 47.9 mm rainfall and a minimum temperature of 9.2 degrees Celsius, he said.
“Weather improving gradually, significant improvement expected from today (Wednesday) afternoon onwards but light rain or snow will occur at scattered places in the next 24 hours,” the official said, adding that there is no forecast of any major snowfall, and the weather is likely to remain mainly dry in Jammu and Kashmir till January 14.
For the fourth consecutive day, Kashmir remained cut off from rest of the country as the arterial Jammu-Srinagar national highway and the Mughal road remained closed, while air traffic was suspended due to heavy snowfall across the valley.
“No traffic was allowed on the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway due to accumulation of snow and landslides at many places,” an official of the traffic control room said.
He said the highway was blocked due to snow accumulation at Jawahar Tunnel and landslides/mudslides/shooting stones at Samroli, Magarkot, Panthyal, Marog, Cafeteria Mor, Dhalwas and Nashri.
The snow clearance operations were in full swing and efforts were on to restore movement of stranded vehicles along the 260 kilometre road, the official said.
Mughal Road, which connects the valley to Jammu division through Shopian-Rajouri axis, has been closed for several days due to heavy snowfall in the region, officials said.
The officials said south Kashmir’s Kulgam district received highest snowfall with five to six feet of snow accumulated at some places.
Anantnag district has also received heavy snowfall, they said.
The areas in south Kashmir, followed by central, received heavy snowfall compared to the areas in the north of the valley, the officials said.
Srinagar city has witnessed heavy snowfall for the past three days, even as the snow clearance operations have been ongoing along inter-district routes as well as major roads linking tehsil headquarters to district headquarters.
While the administration has ensured that most of the essential services were least affected, the heavy snowfall has resulted in snapping of electricity in many areas across the valley, the officials said.
There was less movement of traffic due to slippery roads.
The flight operations to and from Srinagar remained suspended for the fourth consecutive day due to poor visibility and accumulation of snow, the officials said.
However, the MET Office has said the weather is likely to improve from later on Wednesday.
Weather is improving gradually and the significant improvement is expected from today afternoon onwards, a MET official said.
He said light rain/snow may occur at scattered places of Jammu and Kashmir over the next 24 hrs.
However, there was no forecast of any major snowfall from Thursday till January 14, he said.
The minimum temperature improved in most places in the valley due to the snowfall but still stayed below the freezing point, the officials said.
Srinagar city — the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir — recorded a low of minus 0.9 degrees Celsius.
The minimum temperature in Gulmarg tourist resort settled at minus 3.5 degrees Celsius compared to minus 4 degrees Celsius a night earlier.
Pahalgam tourist resort, which also serves as a base camp for the annual Amarnath yatra in south Kashmir, recorded a low of minus 1.2 degrees Celsius.
Qazigund recorded a minimum of minus 0.2 degrees Celsius, Kupwara, in the north, minus 0.7 degrees Celsius and Kokernag, minus 1.0 degrees Celsius.
As the heavy snowfall as much as eight feet in south Kashmir areas posed a challenge to those who needed to travel for emergency purposes, there were instances when patients and pregnant women had to be carried on makeshift stretchers to hospitals.
According to officials, a woman in south Kashmir’s Shopian district gave birth while she was being taken to a hospital amidst heavy snowfall, which had blocked the roads in the area, on a makeshift stretcher on Tuesday.
Various other cases have also come to the fore where officials from the police and civil administration came to the rescue of patients and expecting mothers.
Officials said over two dozen pregnant women were evacuated and shifted to hospitals in various areas of the Kashmir valley over the past four days.
Most of these women are from south Kashmir areas which have experienced heavy snowfall, they said.
On Tuesday, as many as 21 pregnant women — some with complications — were evacuated from the snow-bound areas of Anantnag district by synergizing the efforts of various departments like Health, Revenue, Police, Mechanical Engineering Department (MED), Roads and Buildings and PMGSY, the officials said.
They said all the women were safely shifted to sub-district hospital and other nearby public health centres and so far six of them have delivered babies at the hospitals, while the rest are under observation or undergoing treatment and stated to be out of danger.
In another such effort, two pregnant women were transported to a sub-district hospital at DH Pora in Kulgam district, the officials said.
They said ambulances from the hospital were called to ferry the expecting mothers late at night, but the roads were blocked.
The drivers of the ambulances were accompanied by snow cutter/JCB which cleared the roads, but due to heavy snowfall the task was completed in about five hours, they added.
Another pregnant woman, who was in a serious condition, was shifted to a hospital from Sunbrari Kokernag area of Anantnag in an ambulance amidst heavy snowfall, the officials said.
They said over three feet of snow had accumulated on the road and the ambulance was accompanied by a snow clearance machine/JCB.
A pregnant woman evacuated from Hayatpora area of Shongpora in central Kashmir’s Budgam district was ferried to a hospital in a snow clearance machine which had to pave the way for itself, the officials said.
Not only pregnant women, but several patients were rescued by the administration by sending snow clearance machines to their places of residence.
Patients from remote and snow-bound areas of Kulgam were ferried to the district hospital in a snow clearance machine late last night.
Shifting of the body of a young boy was facilitated by the mechanical engineering department to his home at Wathora, which experienced heavy snowfall, from Chadoora hospital in Budgam, the officials said. Personnel from police and other departments also lent a helping hand to people stuck with their vehicles at several places across the valley, the officials said.
Meanwhile, chairman Right to Information (RTI) Movement Raja Muzaffar Bhat has appealed to the authorities to undertake snow clearance on internal village roads under the MGNREGA scheme. Bhat said this would ensure all lanes and by-lanes in far-flung areas would get cleared of snow and the move would also provide employment guarantee to the people at a time when there is no work for them. RTI Movement has been demanding to undertake snow clearance work under MGNREGA for last many years, but the government isn’t taking this seriously. Employment guarantee is the essence of MGNREGA, but this doesn’t get fulfilled in the winter months in Kashmir, Bhat said in a statement.

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