Srinagar, Feb 12 : The national highway, connecting Kashmir valley with the rest of the country, remained closed for the 7th day on Tuesday due to fresh landslides and shooting stones though snow avalanche which had blocked the Eastern tube of Jawahar tunnel has been cleared.
Due to continued closure of the highway, several thousand passengers besides over 5000 trucks and oil tanker are stranded resulting in shortage of essentials, particularly vegetables, chicken and meat in the Kashmir valley, where the prices of local vegetables has also increased many fold.
Meanwhile, the 434-km-long Srinagar-Leh national highway also remained closed and there is no chance of early reopening of the only road connecting Ladakh region with Kashmir. The historic 86-km-long Mughal road, linking Shopian in south Kashmir with Rajouri and Poonch in Jammu region remained closed since December last year due to accumulation of several feet of snow which has now frozen. The Anantnag in south Kashmir to Kishtwar in Jammu region road also remained closed due to snow.
Over 5000 vehicles, mostly trucks and oil tankers, are stranded at different places on the highway, the only all weather road connecting Kashmir valley with the rest of the country.
The road has become unpredictable as once landslides are cleared at one place there are shooting stones at other area, official sources told UNI this morning.
The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) and Border Roads Organisation (BRO), responsible for the maintenance of the highway are working almost round the clock to put through the traffic, they said adding Divisional Commissioner, Jammu and Inspector General of Police (IGP) Traffic visited the avalanche prone areas yesterday to see road clearance operation.
"We were about to allow traffic on Monday when there was fresh huge landslides at Marog and intermittent shooting stones between Raban and Banihal stretch," they said adding the road has become very unpredictable as nobody can predict when and where fresh landslides will occur.
They alleged that the agencies engaged in construct of four-lane road widening has failed to take proper steps before starting the work due to which intermittent shooting stones and landslides has become a routine.
However, a traffic police official told UNI that efforts are going on to partially restored traffic on the highway to clear the stranded vehicles. He said only stranded vehicles, particularly trucks, would be allowed to move towards Kashmir.
Meanwhile, official sources told UNI that over 3000 vehicles, mostly carrying essentials for Kashmir valley, are stranded on Udhampur and other places on the highway. Similarly, over 2000 trucks, including those loaded with fruit besides empty oil tankers are stranded on this side of the Jawahar tunnel, including Qazigund. The truckers alleged that government failed to make any arrangement for their stay. "We have so far survived because of local residents who are providing us food and water," the truckers and passengers stranded at Qazigund and other places on this side of the Jawahar tunnel said.
There are large number of passengers stranded at Ramban, they said adding now the district administration has made arrangement for their stay in a local school. The passengers, including women and children, are being provided food, they said.
Meanwhile, an official spokesman said that a huge snow avalanche had blocked one tube of the tunnel when eight persons, including policemen, firefighters and two accused were killed on February 7 when there was heavy snowfall in the area. Now the avalanche has been cleared to allow traffic, he said. (UNI)