After three days of incessant snowfall, weather in Kashmir witnessed a significant improvement on Wednesday but heavy snowfall left property worth lakhs of rupees damaged and two persons including a CRPF sub-inspector dead.
Tin roofs of one dozen houses, unable to bear the weight of snow, collapsed in Shopian, Baramulla, Ganderbal and Srinagar, while dozens of cow-sheds and temporary structures also got damaged at many places across the Valley, officials said.
A CRPF sub-inspector died on duty after a shed collapsed at a former National Conference legislator's house in Hazratbal area of Srinagar while an elderly woman was killed by snow falling off a roof in Trehgam area of Kupwara in north Kashmir. The roof and upper storey of a newly-constructed residential house at Tengpora and another house at Jawahar Nagar in Srinagar collapsed due to accumulation of snow, officials said.
As videos of the roof collapse surfaced on social media, it created panic among Valley residents, who have been reeling under the heavy snowfall since Saturday night. Meanwhile, people from various parts of the Valley told this newspaper about the problems arising out of the accumulation of snow. Many areas continued to remain inaccessible due to the heavy snowfall while power breakdown in several areas caused a huge inconvenience, locals from Shopian said. Life in Valley continued to be crippled for the third consecutive day as shops at many places remained closed and traffic was off the roads.
When contacted, Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Pandurang K Pole told the Greater Kashmir that maximum impact of the snowfall has been felt in Shopian, Anantnag and Kulgam districts, where efforts were being made to ensure that "even far-flung areas are made accessible soon". Pole said he had a day-long visit to Kulgam and Anantnag, where essential services were also being restored gradually. "Almost 70 to 80 per cent road clearance on the Tehsil and Block level has been managed. We are hopeful that rural areas of Shopian, Kulgam and Anantnag will be made accessible by tomorrow as concerned departments are working on snow clearance," Pole said.
Commenting on restoration of power supply, Pole said there were "minor faults affecting power supply" during this snowfall as compared to last few years of power breakdowns caused by the snowfall. He said 95 per cent power supply had been restored in summer capital Srinagar. "The damaged transformers have been replaced and whatever remaining faults in city areas, will be rectified in the next 24 hours. We are hopeful that 100 per cent electricity is restored in rural areas in the next 72 hours and first these areas are being made accessible," Pole said.
When asked about damages caused to property due to the heavy snowfall, Pole said one dozen houses and temporary structures in Srinagar and structures in south Kashmir were damaged.
"The damages will be compensated under the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) and even under provisions of the Red Cross Relief. We are making a loss assessment and our teams have been on the ground for making the assessment," Pole said.
Highway remains closed, no flight operations at Srinagar Airport:
The 270-kilometre Srinagar-Jammu National Highway remained closed for the fourth consecutive day on Wednesday due to accumulation of snow near the Jawahar Tunnel and other places. Besides, there have been a large number of landslides at multiple places hampering the road clearance process, officials said. Traffic officials said hundreds of vehicles stranded on the highway "will be allowed to move towards their destination as soon as the road re-opens".
Meanwhile, for the fourth consecutive day, no flights could operate from the Srinagar International Airport. Air traffic was cancelled on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday due to heavy snowfall.
Director, Airports Authority of India, Srinagar Airport, Santosh Dhoke said all 23 scheduled flights were cancelled due to the snowfall on Wednesday. Dhoke said the snow clearance process continued till late afternoon but no flights could operate. The official said the resumption of flight operations on Thursday will depend on the visibility. "With an improvement in weather predicted by the Met department, we are hopeful that normal flight operations will resume Thursday," Dhoke said. Meanwhile, the Border Roads Organisation has cleared the runway at Srinagar International Airport after it was closed due to heavy snowfall, a statement issued here said. It said BRO had "put men and machinery into work to clear the airport runway amid hectic efforts". Officials said that after 72 hours of snowfall in Kashmir the BRO pressed hi-tech equipment to clear the runway. "It was made possible due to the continuous operation of the snow clearance machine on the runway to prevent the icing on the highway," said Col. Mukesh of BRO.
MeT says "mainly dry weather" till Jan 14:
As per the latest MeT forecast, light rain or snowfall was likely to occur at scattered places of Jammu and Kashmir for the next 24 hours. However, the forecast said there was no prediction of "any major snowfall and weather will remain mainly dry till January 14".
Jammu and Kashmir Disaster Management Authority (DMA) on Wednesday issued high, medium and low level avalanche warning for higher reaches of avalanche prone areas of Jammu and Kashmir. As per an advisory issued, 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. 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.