Shujaat Bukhari

Tents and shelters collapse; shortage of firewood or kerosene; rehabilitation work suspended

Air traffic restored, district roads opened Government undertakes more rescue work Clearing operations continue on Jammu-Srinagar highway

SRINAGAR: Even as life in Srinagar returned to normal after Monday's heavy snowfall, thousands of quake survivors in Uri and Tangdhar continued to suffer. At many places the temporary shelters and tents have collapsed.

Air traffic was restored in Srinagar and the last batch of Haj pilgrims, who were stranded, left for Jeddah.

The main roads connecting various district headquarters were opened. Power supply was partially restored. "We are trying to restore it fully by the evening," Chief Engineer, Power, Showkat Rashid Wani said.

Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, who arrived here from Jammu, convened a high level meeting. .

With the reports of fresh snowfall in Uri on Tuesday, the problems for quake survivors increased. Heavy rain and snow in the upper reaches since Sunday caused many temporary shelters to collapse and people have been forced to take shelter in community halls and government buildings.

"We couldn't sleep for the second straight night," Khurshid Ahmed, a resident of Uri, said. "Until midnight it was snowing heavily and we took turns to remove the snow from our sheds to prevent them from collapsing," he said.

Another resident Ghulam Khawja said, "It is very cold out here. Even the firewood is wet, and there is a scarcity of kerosene."

The rehabilitation work in Tangdar and Uri has been suspended. According to an official, "We are back to square one. We are doing rescue work again."

Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Basharat Ahmed Dhar expressed confidence saying, "I do not think they will face major problems. Our men are there and we are making every effort to make the people comfortable."

NGOs meet

In Srinagar, non-governmental organisations called an emergency meeting to chalk out a strategy to help people fight the cold. Representatives of the Voluntary Association Network Kashmir, Confederation of Voluntary Associations Hyderabad, Helpage India and Children's SOS Villages decided to provide kangris (a locally used fire pot) and hot water bottles to affected families.

The NGOs are approaching the Army and Air Force for help to transport the items to Tangdhar, which has been cut off by snow.

The organisations have also asked the Government to provide free firewood to the survivors.

Vital link opened

Luv Puri reports from Jammu: With the improvement in weather conditions, the country's only link with the Kashmir Valley, the 300 km Jammu-Srinagar National Highway 1A, opened on Tuesday evening after snow cutters were pressed into action. Over 500 vehicles had been stranded on the highway due to the snow.

In day-and-night operations launched by the Border Roads Organisation, the Patnitop-Qazikund stretch was cleared.

The highway has been opened beyond Patnitop for one-way traffic, DIG (Traffic) Amin Khan told The Hindu . BRO representatives said 28 bulldozers, seven snow-cutters and other heavy machinery were used.

Clearing operations are continuing at Patnitop, the highest point on the highway, where up to six feet of snow has accumulated. According to the Meteorological Department, the Amarnath cave in Pahalgam experienced about five feet of fresh snowfall over the past 24 hours, while Sheshnag, Panjtherni, Pissu top, Mahaguns and Chandanwari received three to four feet. Pahalgam, the base camp for the Amarnath pilgrimage, also experienced about five feet of snow, much to the delight of tourists.

The roads to Karnah, Teetwal, Tangdhar and Keran are still closed after two to three feet of snowfall. Zojila, highest point on the 434-km long Leh highway, received about five feet of snow. Zojila highway has been closed to civilian traffic since November 17. Mr. Azad has asked officials to mobilise all available resources for quick snow clearance, and restoration of traffic, power and water supply, besides effective drainage.

Snowfall at this time of the year is considered good for Rabi crops as well as horticulture.

A spell of snow leads to a good fruit crop in the summer.