Fresh, massive landslides badly block Jammu-Srinagar highway14 February 2011
The Daily Excelsior
JAMMU: With no let up in the heavy rainfall during the past three days, fresh and massive landslides took place at different places on Jammu-Srinagar National Highway on the intervening night of February 13 and 14 thereby badly blocking the only road link between twin capital cities and making its reopening a daunting task for the Border Roads Organization. Even the road connectivity of Doda and Kishtwar districts with rest of the State got completely snapped this morning while as that of twin border districts of Rajouri and Poonch remained affectedly for over seven hours due to sliding of rocks. Several interior roads in districts other than Jammu and Samba too got blocked causing lots of inconvenience to the people. Reports said that operators of around 60 heavy and light motor vehicles ignored the appeal of the Traffic Police and reached Panthyal, the highly vulnerable spot on the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway, late last night with the hope that they would get preference in clearance of stranded vehicles as soon as shooting of stones ends. However, their hopes got dashed to the ground as continuous heavy rainfall triggered massive landslide at Digdol, nine kilometers from Panthyal towards Ramban at around 6 am leading to their trapping in such a stretch of the highway where there was no shelter. When the Army came to know about the stranding of 60 vehicles including 38 carrying Srinagar-bound passengers, the troops distributed tea and food items. The Army personnel also came to the help of occupants of around 32 vehicles, which were stranded at Banihal due to accumulation of snow on both ends of Jawahar Tunnel, and distributed tea and food items. In the meantime, the Border Roads Organization (BRO) started making attempts to clear the debris at Digdol to pave the way for return of stranded passengers towards Ramban side yet to of no avail as even bulldozers and JCBs could not remove even one boulder from the spot. As shooting of stones continued at Panthyal and massive landslide could not be removed at Digdol, the occupants of 60 vehicles remained trapped in worst affected nine kilometer long stretch of the highway for several hours. 'As soon as shooting of stones ended at around 4 pm, we first allowed the movement of Light Motor Vehicles at Panthyal followed by heavy vehicles', SSP Traffic National Highway, Kifayat Haider said, adding all the 60 vehicles from Panthal and 32 from Banihal safely crossed Jawahar Tunnel at around 6.30 pm. Not only at Digdol, rainfall also triggered major landslides at Kunfar Nullah, Nashri and several other places thereby causing massive damage to the National Highway, the SSP said, adding landslides took place even at those places where the same were never witnessed so far. 'For clearance of huge boulders and debris at Digdol, the BRO is required to carry out blasting and if the weather permits, the removal of debris and boulders would be started tomorrow', the SSP said in response to a question, adding 'it may take two days to BRO to make the highway traffic worthy particularly at Digdol'. He informed that due to blockade of the highway for the second consecutive day today, around 300 trucks carrying essential commodities to Kashmir valley were stranded at different places. The National Highway 1B connecting Doda and Kishtwar districts with the rest of the State also got blocked at around 9 kilometers from Batote due to major landslide. 'This spot is also as vulnerable as Panthyal', the SSP said, adding as it was heavily raining throughout the day and sliding of rock was continuing, the Border Roads Organization could not start road restoration work. Not only NH1B even Doda-Bhaderwah, Kishtwar-Padder and several other interior roads in twin mountainous districts got blocked due to uprooting of trees and landslides, the reports said, adding even there was no road connectivity to several villages of Ramban and Kathua districts during the past two days. Though the road link of twin border districts of Rajouri and Poonch got snapped this morning following landslides at Kali Dhar and Lasana yet the same was restored after the BRO cleared the debris. While road connectivity of Rajouri remained snapped for three hours, the road link of Poonch was restored after seven hours. As the Indian Meteorological Department has given a forecast of rainfall and snow at most of the places in the State during the next 24 hours, there are bleak chances of reopening of the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway 1A and Batote-Doda-Kishtwar National Highway 1B besides interior roads tomorrow. According to IMD spokesman, Jammu recorded 7.4 millimeters of rainfall from 8.30 am to 5.30 pm today, Banihal 21.4 mm, Batote 70.2 mm, Katra 16 mm and Bhaderwah 13 mm. Meanwhile, there was chaos and confusion at Jammu Airport due to cancellation of all the flights to Srinagar. The Srinagar-bound Indigo, Spicejet and GoAir planes remained in the way at Jammu Airport till 1 pm waiting for improvement in the weather conditions at Srinagar airport. However, in view of inclement weather conditions there, these flights flew back to Delhi. Due to limited space at Jammu Airport, Jetlite plane from Delhi remained hovering in the sky for sometime and later flew back. It was only after taking off of Indigo, Spicejet and GoAir planes that Jetlite plane landed in Jammu.