In Kashmir Untimely Snowfall Brings Death and Destruction

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The valley received its first snowfall of the season, albeit untimely, bringing misery to the people already reeling under a lockdown since August 5. — Photos by Caravan Daily

Zafar Aafaq | Caravan Daily

NEW DELHI – At least seven people were killed in separate incidents amid untimely snowfall in Kashmir Valley on Thursday. Two of them died in an avalanche that hit Jadiyan village in Jumagand sector, off Trehgam near the Line of Control in Kupwara district. They were identified as Mohammed Isshaq and Manzoor Khan, both residents of Zihama village in Kupwara. The third died as a Chinar tree fell on a pedestrian in Habak area near Kashmir University main campus in Srinagar.

In Lashipora village of Pulwama district, a civilian lost his life when he fell from the roof of a building while clearing snow from its roof.

Two army men were killed in Langate area of Kupwara after their vehicle met an accident due to poor visibility.

In another incident, Manzoor Ahmad, a technician of the power department was killed when he fell from a pole while fixing a broken electrical cable. Reportedly the government has announced compensation of Rs 2 lakh in favour of the family of the deceased employee.

The valley received its first snowfall of the season, albeit untimely, bringing misery to the people already reeling under a lockdown since August 5, resulting in huge business losses to the local traders. The snowfall damaged crops and caused huge losses to the horticulture sector. Heaps of apples were lying in orchards, ready to be packed and loaded in trucks in villages of south Kashmir. The farmers were enthusiastic this time to be able to do the normal trade as militants had eased their controls over the area.

For months, the farmers were gripped by a fear of militant threats. Militants had warned farmers against harvesting the crop this season, to protest against New Delhi’s decision to end Jammu and Kashmir’s autonomous status. The valley is under lockdown and normal life continues to remain disrupted in the past three months.

On Thursday morning, when people in the valley woke up, they were caught by surprise. Their surroundings were covered in a white blanket. The snowfall came before season, and the people were still busy with the harvest of crops. The snow damaged the apple orchards as tree branches broke under the weight of snow. This would also reduce productivity for the next season. Affected farmers appealed to the government for compensation.

Caravan Daily tried to contact Jammu and Kashmir’s horticulture department for a comment, but the calls went unanswered. The communication system in Kashmir continues to remain disrupted since August 5, when the Union government abolished the state’s special status and imposed a lockdown. While phone services have been restored partially, the internet remains blocked, restricting the ability of residents to communicate.

The snowfall has impacted every sphere of life. Exams slated for the day were postponed. The roads linking major towns in the valley and villages were covered with snow.

Parts of Kashmir were in darkness since last night as the snowfall disrupted the power supply in Srinagar and elsewhere in the valley. This also affected water supply. “There is no electricity to operate the motor and we are running out of drinking water,” said Ashiq Hussain who lives in Barbarshah, a locality near Srinagar’s commercial centre.

In Srinagar, roads remained blocked with broken branches and uprooted trees. Officially all major highways to the valley including the Srinagar-Jammu highway, the Mughal Road and the Srinagar-Kargil highway have been closed for traffic.

The administration was in a “deep slumber” and officials were nowhere to be seen, said Ghulam Mohammad Sheikh who runs a pharmacy near LD Hospital. Dealing with the chaos after the snowfall was the first test of the new administration, and a general impression was that it had failed the test. Sheikh asked, “The central government promised that ending of the special status will bring good governance. What is now stopping the government from clearing the roads and restore power supply?”

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