Ramban/ Ganderbal, Feb 4: The fresh snowfall disrupted the traffic on the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway and led to the closure of the Srinagar-Leh National Highway on Sunday.
Due to a fresh spell of snow and rain, vehicular traffic movement on the ever-busy Srinagar-Jammu National Highway was disrupted for several hours.
Officials said, “Following a fresh spell of snow in the Ramsu-Banihal and Banihal-Qazigund sectors and rain in the Banihal sector, vehicular traffic was disrupted on several occasions during the day on Sunday.”
The officials said that vehicular movement was halted for a few hours due to a landslide that occurred at 11:45 am at Kishtwari Pattar-Sherbibi.
They said that men and machinery of the concerned road maintenance agency, NHAI, were immediately summoned to clear the landslide at the Kishtwari Pattar-Sherbibi stretch. The National Highway was partially restored at Kishtwari Pattar at around 3:30 pm.
“The road stretch at Kishtwari Pattar-Sherbibi stretch is single-way. The stranded traffic between Udhampur and Qazigund is being cleared on priority,” they said.
Earlier, the only surface link connecting Kashmir with the rest of the country, the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway was closed due to snowfall in the Banihal-Qazigund section and due to heavy rain triggering shooting stones besides caved-in portions of road stretch in the Sherbibi area between Ramban and Banihal on early Thursday morning.
It was partially restored for stranded traffic after the concerned road maintenance agency NHAI cleared the accumulated snow, slush and stones at several places and prepared a single-way road in the Sherbibi area between Nashri and Banihal on Friday afternoon.
The National Highway was restored for two-way traffic on Saturday, however, following a fresh spell of rain and snow, vehicular traffic was again disrupted for several hours on Sunday.
The officials monitoring regulations of traffic on the National Highway in Ramban said, “Srinagar Jammu National Highway is open for two-way traffic however due to slippery road conditions and the single-lane road stretches at several places including Dalwass, Mehar-Cafeteria, Ramban, Magarkote, Hingni, Ramsu and at Kishtwari Pattar-Sherbibi, the traffic movement remained slow.”
They said that despite inclement weather and slippery road conditions between Nashri-Banihal, stranded vehicles were being cleared in a regulated manner.
Officials at TCU, Ramban said, “The highway is open for stranded traffic. But people are advised to avoid journeys on the highway, till the weather improves. They are advised to undertake journeys on highways only after confirming the status of roads from TCU, Srinagar, Jammu, Udhampur and Ramban on Monday morning.”
By late evening, though the rain stopped between Udhampur and Banihal stretch, dark clouds continued to envelop the sky.
Meanwhile, Ganderbal district along with other parts of Kashmir witnessed moderate to heavy snowfall since Saturday evening that continued till Sunday afternoon disrupting normal life here.
The higher reaches of the district including Sonamarg, Gagengar, Kullan, Gund, Wangath, and Naranag received moderate to heavy but continuous snowfall resulting in the accumulation of snow above 1 to 3 feet.
Sonamarg tourist destination received over 3 feet of snow while Gagengar, Kullan, Gund, Surfraw, Kangan, and Wangath received nearly 1 to 2 feet of snow, disrupting the normal life here.
Zojila Pass on the Srinagar-Leh highway received over 3 feet of snow, resulting in the closure of the highway for any vehicular movement.
The continuous snowfall and slippery road conditions led to disruption of traffic movement particularly between Ganiwan to Gagengar, Sonamarg on the Srinagar-Leh National Highway.
However, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO)’s Project Beacon and R&B Department pressed its men and machinery for snow clearance work with the majority of the main and link roads cleared by evening.
Given the slippery condition of the road, the authorities said that only 4x4 vehicles and vehicles with anti-skid chains would be allowed to ply towards Gagangeer.
Given the heavy snowfall, the authorities issued an avalanche warning for several higher areas of Ganderbal district.
The people have been advised to restrict their movement to carefully selected routes with extreme care and evacuate from unprotected settlements near avalanche paths.
Officials said that on the directions of Deputy Commissioner (DC) Ganderbal, Shyambir, men and machinery had been kept ready for snow clearance.
They said that the field staff of all the departments had been directed to remain alert.
The officials said that the priority would be to clear the main roads.
They said that almost all essential services were restored in the district.
Executive Engineer R&B, Sub Division Kangan Sheikh Zahoor Ahmad told Greater Kashmir that almost 93 percent of the roads in the Kangan subdivision had been cleared and the road connectivity restored.
He said that due to continuous snowfall, the road clearance at Sonamarg was hampered and the clearance work would continue as the weather improves.
Meanwhile, the Ganderbal district administration has asked Megha Engineering and Infrastructure Limited (MEIL), a Zojila Tunnel construction company, to stop work on the tunnel for safety reasons given the heavy snowfall in the area.
The authorities have asked the construction agency to shift labourers and its employees to safer places in case of need.
By Irfan Raina and M M Parvaiz