‘Rare’ March snowfall brings Kashmir to standstill

‘Rare’ March snowfall brings Kashmir to standstill

Srinagar: People in the Kashmir Valley woke up to more snow Tuesday morning prompting the authorities to extend vacation in schools and cancel various examinations. The snowfall, described by weatherman as ‘rare but not unusual’ for the month of March, also led closure of strategic Srinagar-Jammu highway besides affecting normal commuting in the Valley.

Two people were injured while several structures including a six-century-old shrine was damaged as a result of the snowfall and incessant rains which lashed Valley for the second consecutive day. The downpour also plunged most parts of Srinagar and other major towns of the Valley into darkness puncturing the official claims of preparedness.

Reports said Maqsooda Begum and her son were injured when their house collapsed due to heavy snowfall in Lehjura area of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Monday night. In neighbouring Anantnag district, snow damaged the residential house of Ghulam Nabi Khan in Dooru area. Two houses belonging to Abdur Rashid Lone  and Mohammad Yusuf Sheikh were also damaged by snow in Hurpora, Shopian.

The shrine of Hazrat Qalandar Sahab (RA) in Dalri village of Rafiabad in Baramulla district suffered extensive damage when heavy snowfall uprooted a mighty deodar tree before it fell on the shrine in the early hours Tuesday, reports said. The area had witnessed heavy snowfall uprooting scores of trees.

“The 600-year-old shrine was a major attraction in the village. People from far flung areas of Valley would visit the shrine to pay obeisance,” Sarpanch of Dalri, Ghulam Hassan told Kashmir Reader.

A residential house belonging to Ali Mohammad Shah was damaged to a landslide in Hajibal area of the district. In Tangmarg, Government High School Devbugh, and a kitchen and cowshed of Peer Mohammad Amin suffered damages due to snowfall.

Reports said that maximum villages in Baramulla district are cut off from rest of the Valley due to the blockade of roads. In the border area of Uri roads in Nambla, Garkote, Kamalkote, Bijhama, Lachipora, Trikanjan, Banalì, Chotali, Dudran, Malpora, Dangerpora, Hamam, Dazna, Chatosa, Yamberzalwari, Rampora, Rajpora, Yal, Bakihakro and other villages are still blocked. Snow has also not been cleared from most villages in Rafiabad and Tangmarg.

“The claims of preparedness by the government have been buried under few inches of snow. The roads are out of bounds, while the electricity is nowhere in sight. The ground situation is contrary to what government claims,” Mohammad Shaban Dar, a resident of Rafiabad told Kashmir Reader.

Similar reports were also received from the neighbouring Kupwara district. The roads in Handwara, Macchil, Tangdar, and Chowkibal are blocked prompting the locals to stay indoors. Two residential houses belonging to Mohammad Iqbal Mocha and Peer Nazir Ahmad suffered damages in Handwara.

Here in the summer capital of the state, officials were caught napping as many streets, lanes and bylanes in downtown and uptown remained inundated following snowfall and intermittent rains.

In downtown city, many areas including Safa Kadal, Eidgah, Nowshera, Soura and Ali Jan Road are inundated with water with the locals alleging official apathy. The residents of Gulshan Nagar, Gogji Bagh, Wazir Bagh, Jawahar Nagar, Rajbagh, Chanapora, Mehjoor Nagar and Bemina also complained of water logging. Many city residents said the SMC has failed to lift snow from lanes and by lanes restricting their movement.

In city centre Lal Chowk, many important roads and streets are submerged due to water logging thus making the movement of pedestrians and traders difficult. Many traders had to return home after finding the path to their shops waterlogged.

“The helpline number issued by the district administration is just a face-saving exercise. I called the number thrice complaining of water logging near my office. However, I was only given false assurances. When I again called the number, the officials didn’t pick the phone,” Tanveer Ahmad of Saraibala said.

If the administration had pressed dewatering pumps into service on Monday, by now the problem of water logging would have been solved, Ahmad added.

Srinagar received 21 cm snow till Tuesday evening, while Qazigund received 15 cm and Pahalgam 40 cm. The famous Gulmarg valley received 1 feet snow.

The continued snowfall disrupted road communication and also affected the air-traffic as all inbound and outbound flights were cancelled because of poor visibility. Heavy accumulation of snow also prompted the officials to suspend Banihal-Qazigund train service.

The 300-km highway, the vital surface link connecting Valley with the outside world remained closed for traffic for the second consecutive day due to heavy snowfall around Jawahar Tunnel. Over a 100 load carriers, light motor vehicles and passenger vehicles, were stranded at many places along the highway including, Qazigund, Banihal, Ramban, Ramsoo, Batote, Patnitop, Nagrota and Udhampur.

Beacon, the agency responsible for the maintenance of the only surface link connecting Valley with rest of the world was making efforts to clear the highway, officials said.

“The traffic was suspended on the highway on Monday due to rains and snowfall. Around 2 feet flow has accumulated around Jawahar Tunnel hampering our efforts to make the highway through. There have also been landslides at Panthal and Battery Cheshmha,” Inspector General of Police (IGP) Traffic Muneer Khan told Kashmir Reader.

He said that restoration work will be instantly resumed once the weather conditions improve along the stretch.

“Once the highway is cleared of snow and landslides, the decision about the traffic regulation will be taken,” he said, adding “All Srinagar bound vehicles were cleared on Monday. There are no stranded vehicles along the highway at the moment,”

Snowfall and poor visibility also affected the air traffic as incoming and outgoing flights were suspended at the Srinagar International airport.

“All flights were cancelled due to poor visibility. No flight landed or took from Srinagar International airport,” an official of a private airliner told Kashmir Reader.

Meanwhile, Kashmir University has postponed all the exams, including postgraduation entrance scheduled to be held from Tuesday. Fresh dates for the postponed papers shall be notified separately. Similarly, KAS exams scheduled to be held on Tuesday were also postponed due to inclement weather.

An official of the weather department said that heavy to very heavy snowfall will occur at some places across Jammu and Kashmir in the next 12 hours.

“Due to topography of J&K, it’s not unusual to have snowfall in the month of March and April but yes it is rare. The weather will start improving from March 13,” Deputy Director Met office told Kashmir Reader.