BANIHAL/JAMMU: The Jammu-Srinagar national highway remained closed for the third consecutive day on Tuesday following heavy snowfall and multiple landslides, even as over 250 stranded vehicles, mostly carrying passengers, were cleared after the arterial road was briefly opened for one-way traffic between Banihal and Qazigund, officials said.
The 270-km highway, the only all-weather road linking Kashmir with the rest of the country, was closed for traffic on Saturday night after Jawahar Tunnel, the gateway to Kashmir, experienced snowfall that left over 4,500 vehicles, mostly trucks stranded on either side.
With no let up in the snow in and around Jawahar Tunnel coupled with multiple landslides, mudslides and shooting of stones from the hillocks overlooking the highway at various places between Samroli and Banihal, the strategic road was closed for vehicular traffic since Sunday, the officials said.
However, they said over 100 Jammu-bound trucks were cleared from Jawahar Tunnel area after the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) managed to clear the road of over three feet of accumulated snow on Monday evening.
Over 250 passenger vehicles and dozens of trucks carrying essential commodities to Kashmir valley were also cleared before the traffic was again halted at around 8 pm on Monday, the officials said, adding all the vehicles reached their destination safely.
Dozens of passengers, including three cancer patients, were provided food and shelter by the local residents of Tathaar-Nowgam village of Banihal before they were allowed to move towards their destination by the authorities.
The officials said a mud-slide which had struck the highway near Samroli in Udhampur district due to overnight rains was cleared around 2 pm Tuesday, thus paving the way for resumption of traffic on Jammu-Kishtwar-Doda highway.
Despite inclement weather, they said the road clearance agencies concerned are working to ensure early reopening of the Jammu-Srinagar national highway.
“The highway is blocked at multiple locations, especially between Panthiyal to Ramsu, due to land and mudslides along with heavy accumulation of snow in Jawahar Tunnel-Qazigund stretch. Efforts are on to restore the highway as soon as possible,” a traffic department official said.
He said there are over 4,500 vehicles, mostly trucks, stranded on either side of the highway and these vehicles would be cleared first before allowing fresh traffic after the restoration of traffic.
The Meteorological department has predicted improvement in the weather from Wednesday morning.
“The prevailing weather condition is likely to continue till late tonight or early tomorrow (Wednesday). We are expecting a significant improvement in weather from Wednesday across J&K,” a spokesman of the MeT department said, predicting cold wave conditions from January 7.
Meanwhile, Jammu and other plains were lashed by heavy rains, while high altitude areas in the region experienced intermittent snowfall for the third day on Tuesday.
Jammu recorded 32.4 mm of rains during the past 24 hours ending 8.30 am Tuesday, the spokesman said, adding the city recorded a minimum of 11.9 degrees Celsius which was 4.6 degrees above normal during this part of the season.
Bhaderwah in Doda ditrict, Banihal and Batote in Ramban district experienced 4 cm, 3.2 cm and 0.5 cm of snowfall during the same period, the spokesman said. P