Kashmir: Thousands spend night on road

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Srinagar, Feb 11: The Srinagar-Jammu highway was closed yet again, this time due to slippery conditions because of the below freezing temperature.

Meanwhile, despite airlifting of about 5000 stranded passengers, more than 3500 people, including women and children, had to spend the night in their vehicles on the highway in below freezing temperature, after authorities announced reopening of the road yesterday morning after six days of closure. A traffic police official told UNI here today that no fresh vehicle was allowed from Jammu or Srinagar this morning.

''It is totally slippery at Patnitop and other areas,'' he said, adding, it would be risky to allow traffic in these conditions.

He said as the day progressed, the freezing portions of the road had started melting. ''We are now allowing only one vehicle to pass the danger zones with very low speed,'' he said, adding, normal movement of vehicles would be allowed only when the entire frozen area defreezes.

However, he said, only vehicles stranded on the highway would be allowed to move towards Srinagar.

He added because of the sub-zero temperature, the road gets slippery, particuarly in the areas which witnessed heavy snowfall recently.

Official sources said, ''altogether 3500 passengers, who left Jammu early yesterday morning after the authorities announced that highway was through, are stranded at different places on the highway.'' A passenger, Nazir Ahmad, told UNI that they were stranded at Patnitop since yesterday afternoon. ''We left Jammu at 0500 hrs and after reaching Patnitop, it was total confusion and choas due to the road block.'' He alleged that security forces were not allowing any passenger vehicle to move beyond that point. However, security force vehicles were plying on both sides, though the authorities had announced only one-way traffic from Jammu to Srinagar, he added.

Mr Ahmad said there was traffic or civil police official in the area.

He said passengers, including women, children and elderly persons, besides tourists, had to spend the chilly night in their vehicles.

The hoteliers were charging Rs 3000 to Rs 5000 per room, he alleged.

There was no arrangement from the authorities for the stranded passengers as was being claimed by them, he said.

The highway remained closed for six days due to about seven feet of snowfall between Jawahar tunnel and Banihal and Patnitop and landslides at Penthal, triggered by the rains.

However, the authorities yesterday announced that all stranded vehicles were cleared and allowed traffic from Jammu to Srinagar. No vehicle was allowed from here.

The authorities claimed that aalltogether 5000 stranded passengers were airlifted by the Indian Air Force from Jammu, Udhampur and Srinagar during the past two days.


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