After a day's break, Kashmir on Saturday received fresh snowfall while the Army rescued five of its soldiers who were trapped after a snow-clad track caved in at Machil Sector in north Kashmir's Kupwara district. The weatherman has meanwhile predicted light snow and rains in next 24 hours, even as the Srinagar-Jammu highway continued to remain closed for fifth consecutive day while air traffic was disrupted at the Srinagar "International" Airport again.
The snowfall started in Kashmir early Saturday morning and continued for the whole day, though intermittently at some places. However, in higher reaches, reports said, there was no break.
"There was light to moderate snowfall on Saturday across Kashmir," local Meteorological department officials said. "In next 24 hours, we expect moderate snow and rains."
They said Srinagar received two-centimeter fresh snow, Pahalgam 4-cm, Gulmarg 10-inch and Kupwara three-centimeter on Saturday.
Leh in Ladakh region was the coldest recorded place in Kashmir division as the mercury there plummeted to minus 10.1 degrees Celsius from previous night's low of minus 5.1 degrees Celsius, an official of the MeT department said.
He said Gulmarg in north Kashmir's Baramulla district recorded a low of minus 6.6 degrees Celsius last night while most other places witnessed temperatures around the freezing point.
'5 SOLDIERS RESCUED'
In Machil Sector of Kupwara district, Army rescued five of its soldiers who were trapped after a snow-track they were travelling on caved in. A rescue operation begun immediately after the soldiers were trapped, a spokesman of Army said.
The incident comes days after two avalanches hit a military post and a patrol along the Line of Control in Gurez Sector and Ganderbal district, killing 15 soldiers including a Major.
A senior Army official of 15 Corps said the rescued soldiers are undergoing treatment at a medical facility.
"The snow track leading to an Army post caved in at Machil this morning, resulting in five soldiers getting trapped under the snow," he said, adding: "Five soldiers belong to 56 Rashtirya Rifles (RR) and were on routine counter insurgency duties when the mishap occurred."
The Srinagar-Jammu Highway, the only surface link between Kashmir and rest of the world, remained closed on Saturday. "The road continues to remain closed in view of landslides at many places," Traffic Police Department officials told Greater Kashmir.
The officials said that inclement weather is hampering efforts to restore traffic on the highway.
"As soon as the road is deemed fit for traffic movement, the stranded vehicles will be cleared first," they said.
The air-traffic was disrupted again on Saturday, officials at Srinagar airport said. They said after 12.30 pm, no flight could land or take off from the Airport. "Only eight flights operated while eight were cancelled," they said.
A medium-danger avalanche warning was issued on Saturday for some avalanche-prone slopes in Jammu and Kashmir.
Chandigarh-based Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE) issued the warning for the next 24 hours starting 5 pm on Saturday. The advisory said "medium danger" warning is in place for avalanche prone slopes in Kupwara, Bandipora, Anantnag, Baramulla, Ganderbal, Kulgam, Budgam, Poonch, Rajouri, Ramban, Reasi, Doda, Kishtwar and Kargil districts of Jammu and Kashmir.
"People are advised to keep clearing the snow deposition from rooftops of their houses/bunkers to avoid damages," it said.
Divisional Administration Kashmir on Saturday also issued a medium danger avalanche warning for next 24-hours for hilly and avalanche prone areas of Kashmir and Kargil district.
Meanwhile, a government middle school was damaged due to heavy snowfall in Check Ganastan area of Sumbal.
Reports from Ganderbal said a building of poultry farm collapsed at Tengpora area on Saturday. They said the "Zebarwan poultry farm" sponsored by J&K Cooperative Society is owned by Muhammad Shafi Ganai of Tengpora Dhobipra.
Police said nine structures were damaged due to snowfall/avalanches in North Kashmir. It includes six residential houses.
Police said in Bandipora, two residential houses and two granaries belonging to Muhammad Ramzan Khan and Ghulam Muhammad Khan—residents of Zaigai in the jurisdiction of Police Station Tulail—got damaged due to avalanche.
In Kupwara, five structures were damaged due to heavy snowfall which includes two residential houses belonging to Irshad Ahmad Tantray and Sher Khan, residents of Dana, Ring Payeen in the jurisdiction of Police Post Machil; Darul-Aloom Hanfia Anwarya, Thandoosa in the jurisdiction of Police Station Kralpora and two residential houses belonging to Farooq Ahmad Lone of Thandoosa and Mohammad Shafi Pord resident of Dardpora, in the jurisdiction of Police Station Kralpora.
Meanwhile, despite harsh weather conditions Project Beacon of Border Roads Organization (BRO) managed to keep open the Jawahar Tunnel on the Srinagar-Jammu highway for 20 days during the month of January this year, officials said.
Chief Engineer BRO Brigadier A K Dass here said that the organization has once again proved its mettle by keeping the Jawahar Tunnel open for traffic for maximum duration of time over the last 20 days despite heavy snowfall on either side of the tunnel. He said that the BRO team is working hard to ensure that the tunnel is through for the traffic.
SNOW IN CHENAB VALLEY
As upper reaches of Chenab Valley received another spell of heavy snowfall, it forced the authorities to issue an avalanche and mudslide warning on Saturday.
Both mountain ranges of Kailash and Pirpanchal, which are a main source of water for entire Chenab Valley region, received fresh snowfall in the past 72 hours, triggering fear of snow avalanches and mudslides in the vulnerable areas and highways, officials said.
Sub Divisional Magistrate Bhaderwah, Muhammad Anwar Banday, issued an avalanche warning where "people are advised not to venture out." "Due to heavy snowfall in the upper reaches since last four days, there is apprehension of avalanches and mudslides in some vulnerable areas and as a precautionary measure, the government has issued an avalanche warning and advisory asking people not to venture out unnecessarily," he said.
"Although there is some improvement in the weather, next two to three days are crucial and people should take extra care not only in avalanche-prone areas but also while driving as the roads have become extremely slippery and mudslides have started hitting at several places," the SDM added.
(Sheikh Nazir/ Tahir Nadeem Khan Yusafzai)