The famous Mata Vaishno Devi shrine in Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir experienced its first snowfall of the season on Saturday, while the strategic Jammu-Srinagar National Highway remained closed due to landslides at several places, leaving hundreds of commuters stranded, officials said.
They said that about four inches of snowfall was recorded at Vaishno Devi shrine early Saturday, while the high altitude areas including Bhairon Ghati were covered by heavy snowfall. The yatra was going on smoothly but the helicopter service and the battery car service remained suspended due to weather, the officials said, adding it was raining heavily in Katra, the base camp for the pilgrims visiting the shrine, when last reports were received.
Senior Superintendent of Police, traffic, Shabir Ahmad Malik said the 270-km Jammu-Srinagar National Highway remained closed since Friday afternoon due to heavy snowfall in Banihal sector and multiple landslides in Ramban district. The traffic on the highway was restored early Friday after remaining suspended for the past two days due to the inclement weather. However, it was again suspended in the afternoon due to continuous snowfall and rains that triggered landslides at nearly half a dozen places including Karol, Maroog, Moum Passi and digdole.
"About 50 light motor vehicles (LMVs) were left stranded due to the closure of the highway. A number of trucks also remained stranded while some 300 trucks carrying essential supplies to Kashmir including fuel and fresh vegetables were cleared," Malik said. The officials said the stranded passengers including a group of 26 tourists from Gujarat were shifted to community halls in Ramban sector and were provided all necessary assistance including food and blankets during the night.
Due to the heavy snowfall in the valley, the officials said the train service between Banihal and Baramulla sector was suspended as a precautionary measure to avoid any untoward incident. Snowfall ranging between a few inches to over five feet was recorded in most parts of Jammu and Kashmir, while Jammu city and other plains were lashed by heavy rains during the past 24 hours, the officials said.
The hilly areas of Jammu including Kishtwar, Bhaderwah, Doda, Reasi, Poonch and Rajouri experienced major snowfall, disrupting normal life, the officials said. They said the traffic on the Jammu-Poonch highway was also suspended due to heavy snowfall in several areas in the twin border belts of Poonch and Rajouri. Head constable Abdul Rashid was injured when an official vehicle of a police officer rolled down into a gorge at Patnitop in Udhampur district Friday evening, the officials said, adding the injured was hospitalised.
The Patnitop hill resort, a star attraction for tourists visiting Jammu region during winters, recorded nearly one feet of snow, the officials said. According to the Meteorological department, Katra recorded the highest 95.2 mm of rainfall followed by Jammu at 83.5 mm during the past 24 hours, ending 8.30 am Saturday. The department has predicted heavy to very heavy snow and rains across Jammu and Kashmir till January 9.
With inputs from PTI.