Heavy snowfall cuts off Kashmir valley from rest of the country

Kashmir Valley was cut off from the rest of the country today as fresh snowfall forced cancellation of all scheduled flights and blocked the vital Srinagar-Jammu national highway, officials said.

The snowfall started across the Valley including Srinagar late last night, also crippling normal life as most of the people preferred to remain indoors although the minimum temperature rose by several degrees providing much needed respite to people from extreme cold.

An official spokesman said moderate to heavy snowfall was recorded in the Valley, prompting the authorities to issue an avalanche warning in the higher reaches close to the Line of Control (LoC).

"On the basis of information received from Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE), a medium danger avalanche warning has been issued for higher reaches of north Kashmir," Coordinator Natural Disaster Management Cell Aamir Ali said.
The official said the areas prone to avalanches include Khilanmarg, Uri, Chowkibal, Tangdar, Keran, Macchil and Gurez.

"People living in these snow bound areas above the height of 7500 feet have been advised not to venture into avalanche prone areas during the next 24 hours," Ali said.

Srinagar recorded about six inches of snow, while the famous ski resort of Gulmarg in north Kashmir was covered by about 18 inches of snow so far, the spokesman said.
Snowfall ranging between eight inches to over one feet was also recorded in other parts of the Valley including Pahalgam, Yousmarg and Sonamarg, he said.
Continued snowfall also hampered efforts of the Border Roads Organisation to clear the 300-km Srinagar-Jammu National Highway, the only road linking Kashmir with the rest of the country.

Due to its closure, over 2200 vehicles are stranded at various places on the route, mostly Udhampur and Nagrota belts.Snow clearance machines were pressed into service at Srinagar International Airport since 4 am but due to poor visibility and continued snowfall no flight could be operated today, the spokesman said.
Heavy snowfall along Jawahar Tunnel and Banihal and incessant rains on the other side of the Pir Panjal left the road unsafe, he said.

However, the spokesman said electricity remained unaffected throughout the Valley despite the snowfall.

"The electricity department maintained electric supply throughout the valley despite the moderate to heavy snowfall," the spokesman said.

The snowfall has resulted in a sharp increase in minimum temperature across the valley but the respite failed to bring the people out of their homes.

The city roads continued to be slippery with very thin transport seen moving at snail's pace.

The hustle and bustle in the Sunday market was also missing as the vendors did not venture out.

Srinagar city recorded a minimum temperature of minus 3.5 degrees Celsius, which was 4.3 degrees more than yesterdays record-breaking minus 7.8 degrees Celsius.
Qazigund, the gateway town to Kashmir, recorded an increase of 7.8 degrees Celsius in minimum temperature to settle at minus 5.2 degrees.

A Kashmir University spokesman said all examinations for professional and under-graduate courses scheduled for next two days at University of Kashmir have been postponed.

"Owing to bad weather all the undergraduate and professional examinations, which were scheduled to be held on 16th and 17th of January 2012, have been postponed," Showkat Shafi, public relations officer of the University, said.

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