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Heavy snowfall cuts off Kashmir; Army Major among 5 killed in avalanches

Last updated on: January 25, 2017 15:32 IST

An army officer and four members of a family were killed in avalanches in Ganderbal and Bandipora districts of Kashmir on Wednesday. This even as surface and air links between Kashmir and rest of the country were cut off on Wednesday due to snowfall in the Valley.

A train moves on the snow-covered Baramulla-Qazigund railway track after fresh heavy snowfall. Photograph: Umar Ganie

An avalanche hit an army camp at Sonamarg in central Kashmir's Ganderbal district this morning, a police official said.

He said an army officer -- Major Amit of High Altitude Warfare School -- was buried under the debris of the avalanche.

An army official said one soldier had died after getting trapped under the avalanche. However, the official did not reveal the rank and name of the soldier who lost his life in the incident.

In another avalanche incident, four members of a family died as their house was buried under snow in Gurez sector near Line of Control in Kashmir, the police official said. The avalanche struck Badoogam village in Tulail area of Gurez in the wee hours today and buried the house of Mehraj-ud-Din Lone, a police official said.

Trucks stranded on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway. Photograph: Umar Ganie

He said the house collapsed under the debris of the avalanche resulting in death of 55-year-old Lone, his wife Azizi (50), 22-year-old son Irfan and daughter Gulshan (19). Lone another son, Reyaz Ahmad, was rescued by the authorities and admitted to a hospital for treatment, the official said.

The authorities in Kashmir have issued avalanche warning in higher reaches of the valley following fresh snowfall on Tuesday and advised people to stay away from the mountains and foothills.

Surface and air links between Kashmir and rest of the country has been cut off due to snowfall in the valley as the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway was closed for traffic and all flights to Srinagar Airport cancelled.

A youth walks through snow-covered trees after fresh heavy snowfall in the Valley. Photograph: Umar Ganie

"The Srinagar-Jammu National Highway has been closed for traffic due to snowfall which has rendered the road slippery. Efforts are on the make the road traffic worthy at the earliest," an official of the Traffic Control Department said.

Most of the flights to and for Srinagar International Airport have been been cancelled due to poor visibility.

"Two airlines have put their flights to Srinagar on a stand by while rest of the carriers have cancelled their flights for the day," an official of the Airport Authority of India said.

A man clears the snow from the roof of his house in Kashmir Valley. Photograph: Umar Ganie

With more snowfall forecast over the next 24 hours, the opening of Srinagar-Jammu Highway -- the only all weather road link between the Kashmir and rest of the country -- seems unlikely on Wednesday.

The closure of the road link has resulted in rise in prices of essential commodities like vegetables and food grains.

The stocks of cooking gas have depleted significantly as the trucks carrying the supplies have been either held up in Jammu or stranded en route the 294-km road.

Officials in the Divisional Administration maintain that there are enough stocks of essentials while market checking squads have been formed to keep the prices under control.

A snow-clearing machine ploughs its way through Photograph: Umar Ganie

Meanwhile, most parts of Kashmir Division including Ladakh continued to reel under subzero temperatures with Gulmarg in north Kashmir being the coldest recorded place.

The minimum temperature in the skiing resort fell to minus 3.4 degrees Celsius.

The mercury has failed to breach the freezing point for more than 24 hours there as the maximum temperature on Tuesday stood at minus 1.4 degrees Celsius, an official of the MET department said. Leh in Ladakh region recorded a low of minus 2.2 degrees Celsius.

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