February 2005 News

Stranded Passengers Melt Snow To Quench Thirst

23 February 2005
The Tribune

Ramban: With taps having run dry since the past fortnight due to avalanches and landslides, the stranded passengers and residents of several villages around here are meeting their requirements of water by melting snow. There is no electricity and drinking water supply for the past many days and people have almost exhausted their cooking gas cylinders. With no hope of the Jammu - Srinagar highway reopening before next week, the people were worried that it would add to their miseries. A number of tourists were among those stranded on the highway. Protests against failure of the authorities have started coming from the stranded passengers who raised slogans against the government today. The shooting stones coming from uphill at kilometre 168 (Panthal) near here has become a problematic point and no one dares to cross the place because of fear of sure death in case hit by the boulders. The highway was closed at several other places, including Nashri Nullah. The authorities were hopeful to clear the road up to Ramban within day or two, but it might take a couple of days to put the road through to Srinagar as there was about 70 ft of snow around the Jawahar Tunnel. Mr Bhushan Sadhotra, a resident of Maitra village on the banks of Chenab near here, was critical of the authorities having failed to rise to the occasion and provide succour to the affected people. He said they managed to purchase vegetables from a truck driver whose vehicle was stranded on the road. Driver of a tanker sold the kerosene that he was carrying to the valley. A group of 55 students, including 20 girls, who were returning from Bhopal after participating in water sports, are stranded here for the past six days. One of the stranded sportsmen, Mohammad Altaf, said first they were held up at Jammu because of closure of the road, but a driver of the state road transport corporation misled them by saying that they could board the bus as the highway to Srinagar had reopened. However, they were now stranded here and have exhausted the money they had. They have been given place in the community hall here for staying. Altaf complained that the tehsildar has told them that the authorities would no more provide rations to them and they have hardly any money to purchase foodstuffs. He pointed out that he had himself seen the local store of the Food and Supplies Department full with rations. He said the authorities should make arrangements to airlift them. Several stranded persons have been accommodated in the shelter shed at Banihal. Savitri Devi complained that the hospital in the area was non-functional for the past few days and the sick people have to go to a private doctor whom they have to pay consultation fee. Many areas of the Doda district, in which this area falls, are inaccessible and the officials have yet to reach there to assess the actual loss of life and property. Several houses were buried under deep snow and avalanches. Manohar Lal, a resident of the Ramsoo area, lamented that although there was widespread damage in the Doda district, but the attention of the Centre and the state government was focussed only towards the Kashmir valley. He said all communication within the district has been lost because of snapping of telephone lines. The exact number of casualties was not known, but more than 25 bodies have so far been extricated in the Banihal area. More than 100 families have been rendered houseless as their houses were completely damaged due to avalanches. Several cattle heads have also perished. The road opening was getting hampered as many machines of the Border Roads Organisation were buried under snow.


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