Banihal/Jammu, February 10:
: The strategic Jammu-Srinagar national highway, the only all-weather road linking Kashmir with rest of the country, remained closed for the fifth consecutive day on Sunday as fresh landslides at different places hit the restoration work, officials said.
However, they said efforts are on and a decision to allow traffic on the highway would be taken later in the day after reviewing the progress of the ongoing debris clearance operation.
The highway was closed for traffic on Wednesday following heavy snowfall and incessant rains which triggered avalanches and landslides at various places especially between Qazigund-Banihal-Ramban stretch including Jawahar Tunnel – the gateway to Kashmir valley.
“Over a dozen landslides were cleared despite frosty conditions and intermittent shooting of stones from the hillocks on Saturday but fresh landslides had occurred at Kela Morh, Battery cheshma, Digdole, Panthiyal and Khuni Nallah overnight leaving the road once again blocked,” Ramban Deputy Superintendent of police, Traffic, Suresh Sharma told PTI.
He said the continuous shooting of stones at Panthiyal and frosty condition of the road in the snow-bound areas are posing a major challenge to the agencies involved in the clearance operation.
“The men and machinery are on the job and if the hills get stabilised and there will be no fresh landslide, the road stretch from Ramban to Banihal will be cleared for the traffic by late afternoon,” he said.
Sharma, who inspected some of the landslide hit areas, said the snow clearance operation is almost complete including at Jawahar Tunnel where an avalanche had also struck on Thursday, blocking one of the tunnels on Qazigund side besides killing eight persons including six police and fire and emergency services personnel.
In view of the closure of the highway, the Indian Air Force (IAF) launched special sorties of C17 Globemaster, airlifting 538 persons including 319 GATE aspirants between Jammu and Srinagar on Friday and Saturday.
“A total of 319 students appearing in Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) on February 10 onwards were airlifted from Srinagar airport to Jammu airport on Friday and Saturday,” a defence spokesman said.
He said while 179 students were airlifted from Srinagar to Jammu, 180 civilians struck in Jammu were airlifted to Srinagar on Friday.
Similarly, he said 179 persons comprising of 140 students and 39 locals and tourists were airlifted to Srinagar to Jammu on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the minimum temperature across the Jammu division marked an appreciable increase due to overcast conditions, though some snow-bound parts of the region continue to reel under sub-zero temperature.
The night temperature in Jammu city marked an increase of over three notches to settle at 7.1 degrees Celsius, three notches below normal, against the previous night’s 4.0 degrees Celsius, a spokesman of the MeT department said.
The highway town of Banihal and Batote recorded a low of minus 1.0 and minus 0.6 degrees Celsius, respectively, while Bhaderwah town in Doda district was reeling under minus 1.8 degrees Celsius.
Katra town, the base camp for the pilgrims visiting the famous Vaishno Devi Shrine in Reasi district, recorded a minimum of 6.5 degrees Celsius, the spokesman said.