Srinagar-Leh highway perilous for travellers

Four persons travelling in a Xylo car on way to Kargil from Sonamarg had a narrow escape when their vehicle came under a massive avalanche near India Gate on Zojila Pass on Saturday.

The four had set out on the journey after some light motor vehicles were allowed to move on the highway which was reopened for traffic after five days on Saturday. However, soon the highway was again closed.

As they reached near India Gate on Zojila Pass a massive avalanche hurtled down burying their car, sources said.  “Luckily, few workers of border roads organisation who were carrying the snow clearance work on the highway saw the incident and immediately a joint rescue operation of Drass police and BRO was started,” sources said.

According to sources, after hectic efforts by the rescue team, all the four including the driver were rescued safely and the cab was pulled out from the snow.

Sources said that the rescue operation continued till late night and was monitored by SDM Drass Asgar Ali, SHO Drass Manzoor Ahmed and BRO officials.

To mention, the strategic 434 Km long Srinagar-Leh highway, which is the lifeline for Ladakh and its socio-economic development, connects the region with rest of Jammu and Kashmir.

The road remains closed for about five months during winters as the area from Sonamarg-Drass along the highway receives heavy snowfall.

Come winters, one can see the chaos and confusion that always prevails on the Srinagar-Leh highway due to snowfall, slippery road conditions, traffic jams and the dangerous snow avalanches that occur anytime, sources said.

Due to pandemic, the authorities on the recommendations of the Ladakh UT administration this winter decided to keep open the Srinagar-Leh highway till maximum possible time to stock up essential commodities in Ladakh. “However the situation emerging after the recent snowfall and the road conditions prevailing can be a death trap for the travellers,” sources said.

As per the travellers, it is risky to travel during winters on the Srinagar-Leh highway which passes through mountainous Zojila Pass due to possibility of massive snow avalanches.

Meanwhile, sub divisional magistrate, Drass, Asgar Ali told Greater Kashmir that it was a miraculous escape for the four persons. “The light motor vehicles were allowed from Sonamarg to Kargil on Sunday and the road is connected, but the sudden snow slides triggered by heavy winds remain a concern and challenge.”

“In winters the chances of snow avalanche caused by heavy winds are more and it puts the life of travellers as well as the people working on highway at risk,” the SDM said, adding that to keep the highway open during winters is risky as well as challenging.

Meanwhile, a traffic advisory issued today said that subject to fair weather and good road condition, only one-way traffic from Kargil towards Srinagar shall be allowed on Srinagar-Sonamarg-Gumari road.

“LMVs (shall be allowed) from Minamarg followed by HMVs between 0830 hrs to 1400 hrs. No vehicle shall be allowed after cut off time; the vehicles may carry anti-skid chain to gain more grip on the slippery road.

“Security forces shall follow the same schedule. No vehicle shall be allowed from Gagangir towards Sonamarg between 1800 hrs to 0900 hrs due to slippery condition of the road.”