Nine people die as snowfall cripples life in Kashmir

Dal Lake:  season's first snowfall in Srinagar. (photo by Reuters)

At least nine people, including two army men, died while dozens of houses were damaged as heavy snowfall crippled life across Kashmir on Thursday with National Highway and air traffic shut.

Reports said that two army porters were buried alive when they came under snow avalanche near Tota Gali along the Line of Control in North Kashmir’s Kupwara district. Similarly, two army men were killed, when their vehicle skid off the road and hit a garbage dumper in Langate area of the same district.

An official of the power development department, identified as Manzoor Ahmad, died after he was hit by a falling tree, when he was restoring power supply Hazratbal area of Srinagar.  Another identified civilian died in the same area, when a branch of massive Chinar tree fell on him.

Three more snow-related deaths were reported from other areas of Kashmir over the past 24 hours.

Due to snowfall, entire valley reeled under darkness as the transmission of electricity was hampered by continuous snowfall. The power supply to most of the hospitals in Srinagar, serving thousands of patients, remained disrupted, resulting in suspension of most of the surgeries scheduled for Friday.

Chief Engineer Electric Maintenance – Kashmir, Hashmat Qazi said the power outage was caused by the breakdown of major supply lines due to fall of foilage-laden branches over the lines. “Due to continuous snowfall since morning, we have not been able to restore power supply so far. If the snowfall stop by evening, we may be able restore power supply in Srinagar by Friday afternoon,” he said.

The season’s first major snowfall also hit the road connectivity across Kashmir. Despite administration claiming that machines had been moved to clear snow on intra and inter-district roads, scores of vehicles remained stuck on roads across the valley, reports said.

Srinagar-Jammu national highway – the only road-link between Kashmir and the rest of the country – as the 264 km road has been blocked by landslides and accumulation of snow at several places on the both sides of Pir Panjal mountain range, an official said.

He said flight operations at Srinagar’s lone airport remained shut leaving hundreds of passengers stranded. This is the consecutive year when Srinagar recorded an early snowfall in November – a rarity.

An official also warned that there was danger of avalanches near LoC in upper reaches of Kashmir for next 24 hours.

The snowfall has also caused extensive damage to the apple orchards across Kashmir.

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