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Avalanche alert sounded in Kashmir

By Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar
February 05, 2008 20:11 IST
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An avalanche alert was sounded on Tuesday evening in Kashmir Valley following heavy snowfall across the state since Monday.

Life was thrown out of gear in capital Srinagar and other major towns in Kashmir with the snow creating hurdles in vehicular and pedestrian movement.

Offices and banks recorded low attendance as employees found it difficult to venture out.

Incessant snowfall has led to power disruptions in many parts of the Valley besides closing the strategic Srinagar-Jammu national highway for the third day running.

Jawahar tunnel, connecting the Valley with the Jammu region, recorded nearly eight feet of snow, according to police sources, while Zojila pass -- connecting Kashmir with the cold desert region of Ladakh -- recorded massive snowfall.

Police and beacon personnel guarding the tunnel area were directed to stay inside it after avalanches washed away a police barrack in the area on Tuesday afternoon.

Several families were evacuated and accommodated in government buildings in avalanche-prone villages in south Kashmir's Kulgam district on Tuesday.

North Kashmir's mountain resort of Gulmarg, which is bracing for the February 18 national winter games, has also been receiving major snowfall since the past two days. According to officials, the seven feet accumulation so far augurs well for the games.

Meanwhile, the disaster management cell of state government has become active, and it alerted all its units across Kashmir to be prepared meet any eventuality. Snow clearing machines have also been pressed into service to clear arterial roads.

This was the first heavy snowfall of the season in capital Srinagar. The closure of the highway has led to shortage of essential commodities in Kashmir.

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Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar