Snow shuts only road link to valley for fifth day (Second Lead)

February 10th, 2010 - 7:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Jammu/Srinagar, Feb 10 (IANS) The 294-km long Jammu-Srinagar highway, the only road link to the Kashmir Valley, remained closed for traffic for the fifth day Wednesday because of unending snowfall and landslides, triggering fears about drying up stock of essential commodities.
Even as the air traffic, the only other link to the valley, was normal but stock of essential commodities has begin to dry up as the supplies were hit hard due to the continuous closure of the strategic mountainous highway.

An official from the traffic department said the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), which maintains the highway, was undertaking hectic efforts to open the road. But bad weather was hampering the work.

“Because of continuing landslides and shooting stones in Panthal area near Ramban town, it is not advisable to allow vehicular movement on the road,” said the official.

The Kashmir Valley has been receiving heavy rains and snowfall in upper reaches paralysing the routine life for the past many days.

The authorities maintain that the valley has sufficient stock of essential commodities but people are complaining that food prices have gone up.

“Hoarders and black marketeers are hiking rates taking advantage of fears that the supplies may not last longer,” said Mubarik Ahmed, a government employee in Srinagar.

The heavy snowfall triggered massive avalanches at two places in the past three days killing at least 20 soldiers in mountainous Khilanmarg and Tanghdar regions in north of the valley.

The authorities have issued a high alert for possible avalanches in the higher reaches of the valley and asked residents there to remain indoors or to move to safer places.

On the highway, around 350 trucks and some passenger vehicles have been stranded for the last four days, but all were parked at safe spots between Ramban and Udhampur towns.

“Adequate arrangements of food and other requirements have been made for the stranded passengers by the civil administration,” the officer said.

An estimated 1,500 Kashmir Valley-bound passengers were held up in the state’s winter capital Jammu. Many of them were facing problems as they lacked money for their stay and food.

A police officer said several stretches of the highway were slippery as the snow had frozen into ice. “Our first priority was to get the stranded vehicles cleared from the highway,” the police officer said.

The Jammu-Srinagar highway is a double-lane road. But at some landslide-prone points it gets narrower.

The minimum temperature in Srinagar, the summer capital, was minus 2.5 degrees celsius Wednesday. It was minus 14 degrees in Leh and minus 15 degrees in Kargil.

“Rain and snowfall are expected across the valley and Ladakh region during the next two days but they would be mild,” said Sonum Lotus, director of the weather office in Srinagar.

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