- Five soldiers feared trapped in snow
- Kashmir freezes at sub-zero temperatures
- Flight operations remain suspended at Srinagar
- Jammu-Srinagar highway remains closed for third consecutive day
Five soldiers went missing in two separate snow-linked incidents near the Line of Control in north Kashmir, the Army said, as the region received the season’s first major spell of snowfall that shut two major highways leading in and out of the Valley.
Defence spokesman Rajesh Kalia said search and rescue operations were under-way at two locations in Bandipora and Kupwara districts to trace the missing soldiers.
Kalia said two soldiers slipped down a slope in Nowgam sector of Kupwara while three others went missing from a forward post in Kanzalwan sub-sector of Gurez in Bandipora, both incidents taking place during heavy snowfall in last 24 hours.
While the exact nature of the incidents was not known, the Army’s forward posts in north Kashmir–many of them perched atop steep mountain ridges–have been routinely hit by avalanches in recent years leading to dozens of casualties.
The latest incidents have come at a time when Kashmir valley received the season’s first snowfall, which ended a nearly four-month-long dry spell in the region.
The downpour–moderate to heavy snowfall and rainfall–has blocked three key highways and roads, which lead in and out of Kashmir valley, snapping road connectivity with the region, an official at Traffic Control Room said.
The strategic Jammu-Srinagar national highway remained closed for the third consecutive day on Wednesday due to multiple landslides in Ramban district, a traffic official said.
“Snow clearance operation in Banihal and landslide debris removal elsewhere has started. However, travellers are advised not to undertake any journey without contacting our control rooms in Jammu and Srinagar,” the official added.
Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir Basheer Khan has issued an advisory asking people not to undertake the journey till it is completely restored for traffic.
The highway was closed for vehicular traffic on Monday evening as a precautionary measure following the adverse weather advisory issued by the Met department.
Scores of valley-bound passengers were stranded in Jammu. They have been complaining of running out of money as hotels and restaurants have been charging exorbitant rates.
The historic Mughal Road which serves as an alternative surface link between the Kashmir Valley and the Jammu region, was also closed on Tuesday following heavy snowfall in the Pir Ki Gali stretch.
Flight operations to and fro the Srinagar International Airport remained suspended today due to poor visibility caused by intermittent snowfall in Kashmir, officials said.
“So far, 10 inbound flights have been cancelled due to poor visibility around Srinagar airport,” an official of the Airport Authority of India (AAI) said.
He said a decision on resumption of flight operations will be taken after reviewing the visibility.
Intermittent snowfall in Srinagar and other areas of the valley has snapped the transport links of Kashmir with the outside world as the arterial Srinagar-Jammu National Highway has been closed since Monday night for traffic.
Minimum temperatures throughout the Kashmir Valley and Ladakh region remained below freezing point on Wednesday as the ski resort of Gulmarg recorded the coldest temperature at minus 9.8.
The weather office has forecast rain in the plains and snowfall in the higher reaches of Jammu and Kashmir till Thursday.
Leh recorded a minimum temperature of minus 6.5 and Kargil was at minus 5.8 degrees Celsius.
Srinagar was at minus 0.7, Pahalgam at minus 2.1, Jammu recorded 8.8, Katra 8.2, Batote 1.1, Banihal 0.6, Bhaderwah 0.4 and Udhampur was at 8.0 degrees Celsius, the Met said.