Zojila, Apr 15: Despite fresh snowfall, the 434-km-long Srinagar-Leh national highway reopened today after remaining closed for winter months due to five feet to 40 feet of snow.
However, the normal vehicular traffic would be allowed only from tomorrow. Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad declared the highway open near Zojila where it was snowing intermittently since last evening. About two dozen Army and some private vehicles left for Drass, the second coldest place in the world on the highway.
A UNI correspondent was told by BEACON officials, working on the highway, that it was snowing in the area since last evening.
The area from Zojila to Zero point also witnessed snowfall last week. However, the snow was immediately cleared and repair work was undertaking on the highway, linking Drass, Kargil and Leh with the rest of the country, BEACON Chief Engineer A K Botaney said.
He said there was still a threat of shooting stones and snow avalanches at some known areas. However, every precaution has been taken to avoid any accident, he said.
Mr Botaney said the project BEACON has undertaken repair work of the road which was damaged due to snowfall. About 250 workers of the BEACON were working round the clock to reopen the highway, more than a month before the schedule time.
The highway remains closed winter months from November every year due to heavy snowfall at Zojila, Captain Morh and Zero line.
He said this time about six feet to 40 feet of snow had accumulated on the highway and to remove the snow more than 20 snow cutters and other sophisticated machines were pressed into service from both sides.
Mr Botaney said there was, however, no casualty or damage to machinery during the snow clearance operation this year, despite snow avalanches and shooting of stones at some places.
He said the 80-km-long Srinagar-Sonmarg highway was declared open in March after BEACON and civil authorities put a joint effort.
This was for the first time that the road was reopened a month before the schedule date. A large number of tourists visited the tourist resort of Sonmarg and the local population, including pony walls who had left in November last year, returned there.