Photo taken on Jan. 5, 2019 shows stranded trucks on a closed highway after a snowfall in Qazigund area of Anantnag district, south of Srinagar City, the summer capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir. Normal life in Indian-controlled Kashmir was Saturday disrupted by heavy snowfall that lashed the region, officials said. (Xinhua/Javed Dar)
by Peerzada Arshad Hamid
SRINAGAR, Indian-controlled Kashmir, Jan. 5 (Xinhua) -- Normal life in Indian-controlled Kashmir was Saturday disrupted by heavy snowfall that lashed the region, officials said.
Local government officials at mechanical engineering department said Srinagar city, the summer capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir, received around 12 inches of snow, disrupting traffic on roads and causing power outage.
Likewise, Qazigund recorded 11 inches, Pahalgam 16 inches and Kupwara 17 inches of snow, officials said.
The snowfall has cut both surface as well as aerial connectivity to Srinagar.
"The accumulation of snow on the roads in Srinagar and elsewhere has disrupted the movement of vehicles in the city and on inter district roads," an official of mechanical engineering department said. "Our department has pressed in snow clearance machines to clear the roads and allow vehicles to ply on it smoothly."
The plains and upper reaches of Indian-controlled Kashmir experienced heavy rains and snowfall. The snowfall and downpour started Friday afternoon and was going on until Saturday morning.
Officials said heavy snowfall was reported along high altitude areas including famous tourist destination of Gulmarg, Sonamarg, Pahalgam, Peer ki Gali on Mughal road area and other higher reaches.
"This is the year's first snowfall in Srinagar and everything is buried under thick white carpet," Farhat Hussain, a Srinagar resident said. "Srinagar has received heavy snowfall after a long time and with this most areas of region have been without electricity since last night."
The region is currently reeling under 40-day cold harsh spell of winter (locally called Chillai Kalan). The period starts from Dec. 21 and lasts until Jan. 31. Rooftops, trees and fields in the region are completely draped with snow.
A government spokesman said flight operations at Srinagar airport were temporarily suspended on Friday owing to bad weather and accumulation of snow on the runway. The operations were affected on Saturday morning as well.
"Flights have been lined up at the tarmac and are waiting for the weather to improve," an official at the airport said. "Even the morning flights were cancelled due to snowfall and poor visibility. We have almost cleared the runway and if weather allows, we would definitely resume the flights in evening."
The snowfall has led to closure of 434-km Srinagar-Leh highway due to heavy snowfall at Zojilla pass. An traffic department official said at least three feet snow has accumulated at Zojila Pass and around 1.5 feet snow has accumulated in Sonamarg.
Authorities said traffic on the Srinagar-Jammu highway, too, have been suspended in wake of accumulation of snow near Banihal tunnel.
Reports said landslides have triggered at several place on the road due to snow and rains.
The 294 km Srinagar-Jammu highway is the only road link connecting Muslim majority areas of the region to winter capital Jammu and Indian states.
Authorities in wake of fresh snowfall have issued avalanche warning for people inhabiting upper reaches and areas close to the line-of-control (LoC).
People in the snowbound areas are urged to take precautions and not to venture on steep slopes during the next 48 hours.
Reports said the snowfall so far has claimed two lives. A 75-year-old woman died of cold while travelling amid snow at Sadna Top in Karnah, apparently due to cold. Another person was killed after falling from a rooftop while he was clearing snow in Plan area of Bandipora district.
The meteorological officials said rain and snow are likely to continue for the next 48 hours in the region.