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Heavy snowfalls claim 184 lives in J&K
Mukhtar Ahmad In Srinagar | February 22, 2005 14:03 IST
Last Updated: February 23, 2005 19:38 IST
The heavy snowfalls in Jammu and Kashmir have claimed at least 184 lives. Agency reports said 203 people have died.
Villages in Anantnag and Poonch have been severely affected. Rescue teams managed to reach the worst-hit Waltingoo village near Jawahar tunnel in Anantnag on Tuesday afternoon.
Authorities said the massive snow accumulated on the ground was hampering their efforts.
"There is nearly 15 feet of snow in these foothill villages struck by avalanches that rolled down the Pirpanjal mountains," a senior police official in Anantnag told rediff.com over phone.
The officer, who did not want to be named, said rescue teams have so far recovered 150 bodies from the village, where avalanches washed away 200 houses on Saturday. He said 31 bodies were recovered from other foothill villages near Qazigund.
Joint rescue teams comprising personnel from the army and the local police, besides civilian volunteers, left for Qazigund on Tuesday morning braving snow blizzards and zero visibility. "They are in touch with us and doing everything possible to locate survivors," the officer added.
Army helicopters dropped food packets near Jawahar tunnel where over 300 Indo-Tibetan Border Police troopers and state police personnel are trapped.
"They had no other choice but to lodge themselves inside the tunnel as massive avalanches started hitting the two ends of the tunnel. This [Tuesday] morning ropes were used to rescue 50 ITBP troopers from inside the tunnel," said the officer.
The entire valley is still plunged in total darkness.
The officiating GOC 15 corps Major Gen Raj Mehta told media persons in Srinagar that as per army records the snowfall on the Line of Control in the Uri sector was much more than the last highest recorded in 1962.
The GOC said helicopters had been despatched with explosives to trigger avalanches in the Pirpanjal mountain range. "The explosives will trigger impending avalanches so that once the Jammu-Srinagar highway is opened it remains free from the threat of further avalanches."
Avalanche warnings and snow kept the 300-km highway closed for the eighth consecutive day. The highway is the only surface link between Kashmir and the rest of the country.
In the Ladakh region, the Indian Air Force airlifted 321 stranded people from Leh town to Nubra, Leh Deputy Commissioner Satish Nehru said.
Nehru said due to heavy snowfall many people had got stranded at Leh and Nubra. The district administration and Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council Chief Executive Councillor Rigzin Spalbar took up the matter with the defence ministry, which directed the IAF to airlift the stranded.
"We have also requested the IAF to airlift people in Lingshed area," Nehru said.
More sorties are expected on Wednesday to airlift the people still stranded at Leh, Nubra and Lingshed.
Meanwhile, official sources told rediff.com that Congress president Sonia Gandhi will visit the avalanche-hit parts of the state on Wednesday.
"Sonia Gandhi may also visit Poonch where nearly two dozen civilians were killed as avalanches buried several houses in the border district," said a senior state official.
Ahead of Sonia's visit Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed flew to Srinagar on Tuesday afternoon and met senior civil and police officials.
With PTI inputs
More reports from Jammu and Kashmir
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