SRINAGAR: Massive snowfall and rains wreaked havoc on Wednesday, killing at least six people, including an Indian Army major, while forcing closure of air and road traffic to the Valley.
Authorities have issued a fresh avalanche warning amid continuing rain and snowfall which has kept even the political leadership away from Republic Day celebrations in the Valley since no flight could land at the Srinagar airport.
Four family members were buried alive when an avalanche hit a residential house in Budgam village of north Kashmir's Gurez, officials said. The area has recieved nearly five feet of snowfall in the last 48 hours, which hit the rescue operations.
In another incident, an Army major of 115 Territorial Army was killed when a snow avalanche hit an Army installation in Sonamarg tourist resort in central Kashmir. A police officer said seven soldiers were rescued from the site who were initially feared dead.
In north Kashmir's Kupwara, a man was killed while removing snow from the rooftop of his home in Kralpora village when it caved in. Another man who was helping the slain remained trapped under debris for nearly an hour before he was retrieved to safety.
While the massive snowfall, witnessed after a gap of many years, brought cheer on the faces of many people, triggering a snow-storm of sorts on social media, it, however, limited inter-district connectivity in the valley with many far-flung villages remaining cut-off from the mainland.
In at least two instances, the state administration pressed into service the police department to evacuate two pregnant ladies to hospitals while more than 150 residents were relocated from avalanche-prone areas in Gurez to safer places.
According to officials, nearly two dozen residential houses and many roads were partially or completely damaged by rain and snow over the last two days while scores of villages remain cut-off from the rest of the Valley due to the unprecedented precipitation.
The worries for the under-equipped state administration in the valley have only grown with the weatherman predicting fresh rains and snowfall over the next 48 hours in the Valley, "Drive carefully and travel only if it is absolutely necessary," deputy commissioner of Pulwama, Muneer-ul-Islam, wrote on his Facebook wall.
(Cover Photograph BASIT ZARGAR)