Fresh snowfall in Kashmir valley on Sunday broke a week long freezing cold conditions but added to woes of people living in Kashmir with depleted essential stocks and road blockades. The closure of the Srinagar-Jammu national highway saw the government rationing domestic cooking gas supply, while fresh avalanche warnings were issued to people living in upper areas.
After witnessing sub-zero temperature since January 9, Srinagar received 11 centimetre of snowfall, starting midnight. The snowfall raised day temperature to minus 0.3 and night temperature witnessed drastic increase to minus 3.5 from minus 7.8 a day before, coldest in the last 16 years.
"Snow will help increase day temperature. We expect more snowfall in the next 24 gour hours," said meteorological department head Sonum Lotus.
Fresh snowfall closed the only surface link with the country, Srinagar-Jammu highway, with Banihal, housing 1.5 km long Jawahar Lal tunnel, receiving 24 cm of snowfall, while Qaigund, the gateway to Kashmir, recorded 19.2 cm of snowfall.
"Rationing of LPG has been ordered and oil companies will fill only five kg in domestic cylinders so that more people can be accommodated till the highway reopens," said Kashmir divisional commissioner Asghar Samoon.
Several days of highway cloure since January 6 snowfall has depleted the valley stocks of essentials, including vegetables, meat, chicken and domestic gas.
"Meat and LPG is not available for a week now," said Naveed Ahmad, an old city resident in Srinagar.
The government, however, denies there is any shortage. "There is no shortage of essentials. Deputy commissioners are directed to make extra efforts for smooth distribution," said Samoon.
Srinagar Municipal Corporation commissioner Sheikh Mushtaq admitted to seizing hundreds of dead poultry, goats, sheep, rotten vegetables and other livestock. "The contaminated essentials were destroyed on spot," said Mushtaq.
The state government faced embarrassment when the valley plunged into darkness in the first week of January for three conseutive days with electricity transmission lines snapping in Pir Panjal mountain.
"Despite heavy snowfall, the electric department maintained electric supply throughout the valley," claimed Samoon.
But Kashmir disaster management cell coordinator Amir Ali asked people to charge mobiles in advance. "Keeping in view the forecast, be prepared for any disruptions. Charge your mobile phones, keep adequate arrangements. It is advisable to keep a torch, radio, extra batteries, candles and matches handy," said Ali.
The valley remained cut off from the country as air traffic too remained suspended due to poor visibility. Kashmir university has also postponed exams scheduled for next two days due to more snow forecast.
The authorities, meanwhile, issued a avalanche warning for higher reaches of Khilanmarg, Uri, Chowkibal, Tangdar, Keran, Macchil and Gurez sectors.
“People living in these snow bound areas above the height of 7500 feet have been are advised not to venture in avalanche prone areas in the next 24 hours,” said Ali.
Seven people have died in Kashmir this month due to snowfall, closed roads and sub-sero temperature. Several rural pockets in north and south Kashmir remained cut off from their district headquarters on Sunday due to road blockage, which incldudes far-off villages of Shopian, Kupwara, Pulwama, Bandipora, Tral and Tangmarg.