Explosives were used to blast boulders that were hampering the ongoing restoration work on the 270-km-long Jammu-Srinagar national highway, which remained closed due to multiple landslides triggered by incessant rains for the third consecutive day on Thursday, officials said. With the improvement in the weather, the restoration work at over half-a-dozen places in Udhampur and Ramban districts was speeded up in the morning as over 700 Kashmir-bound stranded vehicles, mostly trucks carrying essential commodities, were cleared, the officials said.
They said efforts are on to clear the remaining 1,300 vehicles that are stranded on the highway -- the only all-weather road linking Kashmir with the rest of the country. Explosives were used to blast boulders at the Dewal bridge near Samroli in the Udhampur district, where a huge landslide had blocked a long stretch of the road. Udhampur Deputy Commissioner Krittika Jyotsna visited the landslide-hit area to review the situation, the officials said, adding the restoration work might stretch till Friday afternoon given the massive debris.
Ramban Deputy Commissioner Mussarat Islam, who is also personally monitoring the road clearance operations, said 25 out of the around 30 areas hit by landslides and mudslides on the highway were cleared on Wednesday itself. The highway was blocked on Tuesday evening due to landslides, mudslides, and shooting stones at 33 places in Ramban and Udhampur districts.
The Mughal road, another link connecting the twin Poonch-Rajouri districts of the Jammu region with South Kashmir's Shopian district, was also cleared for traffic after remaining closed for two days. A 150-feet-long road stretch and an under-construction bridge on the highway were also washed away due to flash floods.
Earlier in the day, Senior Superintendent of Police, National Highway, Shabir Ahmad Malik said efforts have been stepped up to ensure the early restoration of traffic on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway. "Over 700 trucks and passenger vehicles, stranded between Panthiyal and Banihal, were cleared and they reached their destinations in Kashmir since Wednesday evening, while efforts are on to clear the remaining 1,300 vehicles," Malik told PTI.
Of these, 110 trucks were cleared during the day on Thursday, the officer said, adding the highway is through between Digdole and the Valley, while the road clearance operation in Ramban district, including Kela Morh, Sita Ram Passi Maroon, and Battery Cheshma, is likely to be completed by tonight. "The stranded vehicles will be given priority once the road is made through," he said.
The officials said many people crossed the landslide-hit areas by foot to reach their destinations. The stranded passengers have been provided with food and medical facilities, they added.