Snow shuts Kashmir airport, highways

Snow shuts Kashmir airport, highways
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Water logging, no public transport throws life out of gear in Srinagar

Srinagar: Thousands of people were stranded as both aerial and surface link to Kashmir stayed closed on Wednesday because of intermittent snow and rains across Kashmir Valley.
A huge crowd of passengers swarmed Srinagar Airport to fly out of Kashmir but had to return after all the 28 flights were cancelled due to low visibility triggered by snow.
Srinagar Airport Director Akash Deep Mathur said that all flights were suspended for the day. This was the second time in a week when all air operations were suspended due to low visibility at the airport.
Ghulam Mohammad Bhat, who was travelling to Delhi on a morning flight, said he left home at 9am but had to return home from the airport after his flight was cancelled. He said the airport was heavily crowded with a massive throng gathered at the departure lounge awaiting status of their flights.
Similarly, vehicular traffic was stopped on the strategic Srinagar-Jammu highway just a day after it was allowed to proceed from Srinagar towards Jammu. The road was again closed on Wednesday after snowfall and rains triggered landslides and shooting stones at several places, including at Ramsoo, Panthal, and Anokhi Fall on the treacherous Banihal-Ramban stretch.
Early morning, snow lashed both sides of the three-kilometer long Jawahar Tunnel in the Pir Panjal mountains. It caused slippery roads prompting traffic authorities to close the road. While Beacon authorities mandated for maintaining a portion of the highway pressed men and machinery into service to clear the road, continuous snowfall frustrated their efforts.
A traffic police spokesperson said that snow had accumulated on either side of the tunnel and also landslides had blocked the highway at several spots.
He said the decision regarding allowing vehicular movement on the highway will be taken on Thursday after assessing the weather condition.
The traffic department said that travellers should first confirm the status of the highway before beginning their journey.
Similarly, other highways connecting Kashmir, including Mughal Road, Kishtwar-Anantnag, and Srinagar-Leh highway were all closed for traffic due to snow accumulation.
It is unlikely that the highway will be through for traffic on Thursday as the weather office has predicted more snow and rain in the region till Thursday afternoon. The weather department had forecast a wet spell triggered by western disturbances from February 5. According to Director of J&K Metrological department, Sonam Lotus, the weather is expected to improve from Thursday afternoon.
The disruption of air and surface traffic again spurred airliners and travel agents to fleece travellers by charging exorbitant airfares. A single traveller had to pay between Rs 14,000 and Rs 24,000 for flying on the Srinagar-Delhi route. Similarly, a flyer had to shell out more than Rs 15,000 for half-an-hour’s air travel between Srinagar and Jammu.
The government had warned of legal action against airlines for the exorbitant fares but the warning has had little impact. The current airfares to and from Srinagar are double than those of New Delhi-Dubai, Delhi to Kathmandu, Kabul, Singapore and St Petersburg (Russia).
Earlier in the day, the entire valley including Srinagar city was blanketed with fresh snow. It slowed down traffic and caused traffic snarls. At several places in Srinagar, commuters were seen struggling to drive their vehicles in snow. Many roads in the city including commercial hub Residency Road were waterlogged.
Deputy Commissioner Srinagar, Syed Abid Rasheed Shah, said that the water-logging in the city has resulted from heavy precipitation and efforts were being made to de-water all the affected roads and lanes. According to him, Fire & Emergency Services have been instructed to use fire tenders and portable pumps for dewatering efforts.
Shah said the mechanical engineering department has also been instructed to ensure prompt snow-clearance in case of accumulation. He said helpline numbers 7051112345 and 9419042342 have been issued for public assistance.
In the city, snow clearance vehicles were seen at several spots including Lal Chowk and Batamaloo for clearing roads.
However, life was thrown out of gear again in the evening due to heavy snowfall. It resulted in early closure of markets while thin vehicular traffic was visible on roads. At many places, commuters complained that public transport went off the roads, allowing auto rickshaws to fleece commuters.
A commuter who could not find a passenger bus on the Batamaloo-Bemina route was charged Rs 60 after much haggling by an auto driver from Bemina crossing to cover a distance of about a kilometer.