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29 killed as J&K grapples snowfall
Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar | February 20, 2005 18:42 IST
Last Updated: February 20, 2005 20:25 IST
At least 29 people including women and children were killed and some 62 houses damaged as landslides and avalanches triggered by heavy snowfall hit Jammu and Kashmir since Saturday.
Eighteen people died on Saturday night when a landslide hit Lowran of Poonch district in Jammu, police sources said.
The landslide destroyed 12 houses. The police, army and civil authorities were involved in rescue operations, sources said.
In the Kashmir Valley, heavy snowfall damaged over 50 houses. Official sources claim this is the heaviest snowfall in the Valley in 15 years.
The Valley remained cut-off from the rest of the country due to power failure, cancellation of flights and closure of the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway for the third consecutive day.
Over 3,500 people were stranded on the 300-km highway, which connects Srinagar to the rest of the country. The highway has been closed for the last five days.
The government claimed the stranded passengers were being provided accommodation, food and shelter.
A record 11 feet of snow accumulated at Jawahar Tunnel and seven feet at Patnitop. The local administration failed to clear the snow because of the bad weather.
Two people were reported dead in Anantnag and Baramulla districts in an avalanche on Sunday.
Nine people, including seven personnel of the Border Roads Organisation, were killed on Saturday when an avalanche hit Kangdoola on Kargil-Leh road during a road clearing operation.
Five BRO personnel who went missing after an avalanche hit the Jawahar Tunnel on February 18 have been declared dead as the heavy snowfall hampered the rescue operations, they added.
The lack of proper food supplies and drinking water has affected locals. People were seen boiling snow for drinking water. Many claimed pulses and grain were the only source of food as essential food items have vanished from the market.
The pilgrimage to the holy cave shrine of Vaishnodevi, suspended on Saturday due to avalanches, resumed on Sunday morning.
Hopes of any respite are dim as more snow is predicted during the next 24 hours.
With inputs from agencies.
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