Sonia flying to Srinagar, south Kashmir visit called off

February 22nd, 2008 - 5:57 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Sonia Gandhi

Jammu/Srinagar, Feb 22 (IANS) United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Home Minister Shivraj Patil’s tour of the snow-hit areas of Jammu and Kashmir was cut short Friday as the chopper carrying them could not cross over the Pir Panjal mountain range to reach south Kashmir due to bad weather, officials said. Gandhi, Patil and a team of home ministry officials wanted to assess the situation in areas affected by heavy snowfall.

The UPA chairperson and the home minister landed at the Udhampur airbase Friday morning, where Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and Union Water Resources Minister Saif-ud-din Soz received them.

Gandhi and Patil then left by helicopter to survey the snow-hit areas of Doda and Kishtwar districts in Jammu region.

The UPA chairperson first reached the chief minister’s hometown Bhaderwah in Doda district to assess the losses due to recent heavy snowfall. She met a gathering of about 200 people amidst tight security.

“She shook hands with people and listened to them, giving assurance of all possible help,” said an official.

After spending about 20 minutes in Bhaderwah, the team left for Marwah - a remote mountainous area in adjoining Kishtwar district that was hit by heavy snowfall and avalanches.

In some areas in Kishtwar, there has been up to 15 feet of snowfall leading to collapse of houses, disruption of communication and lack of basic amenities.

Officials said it started snowing again as Gandhi and Patil were assessing the situation in Marwah.

The chopper that they were travelling in was not able to cross over to the Kashmir valley due to the bad weather. As a result, Gandhi and Patil’s tour of avalanche hit areas of Anantanag and Kulgam districts was cancelled and they were forced to return to Udhampur.

“The UPA chairperson, accompanied by the home minister and chief minister is now directly arriving at the Srinagar airport on an Indian Air Force plane,” an official told IANS.

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