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SRINAGAR:  The fresh Western Disturbance which is here to stay till Thursday evening has affected normal life in Jammu and Kashmir as Valley received a fresh snowfall while as rains lashed Jammu region. The snowfall has led to the closure of Srinagar-Jammu highway and also the air traffic here due to poor visibility. Notably, the local MeT department had already issued a warning that a fresh WD is affecting JK from Feb 05 to Feb 07 evening. The MeT prediction had also said that there is possibility of snowfall and rainfall across the Valley during these three days.

No flight could land or take off from Srinagar airport since yesterday. None of the 27 flights scheduled to arrive in Srinagar yesterday could land at the airport. Officials say due to continuous snowfall there are no chances of resumption of air traffic today as well. Heavy snowfall has also hit road traffic. The Jammu-Srinagar highway is once again closed for last two days. Due to frequent snowfall and landslides, the highway, which is the only road link that connects the Valley with the rest of country, has often been closed in the last one month, hitting supply of essential commodities in Kashmir valley.

A huge crowd of passengers swarmed Srinagar Airport to fly out of Kashmir but had to return after all the 28 flights were cancelled due to low visibility triggered by snow. Srinagar Airport Director Akash Deep Mathur said that all flights were suspended for the day. This was the second time in a week when all air operations were suspended due to low visibility at the airport.

Similarly, vehicular traffic was stopped on the strategic Srinagar-Jammu highway just a day after it was allowed to proceed from Srinagar towards Jammu. The road was again closed on Wednesday after snowfall and rains triggered landslides and shooting stones at several places, including at Ramsoo, Panthal, and Anokhi Fall on the treacherous Banihal-Ramban stretch.

Early morning, snow lashed both sides of the three-kilometer long Jawahar Tunnel in the Pir Panjal mountains. It caused slippery roads prompting traffic authorities to close the road. While Beacon authorities mandated for maintaining a portion of the highway pressed men and machinery into service to clear the road, continuous snowfall frustrated their efforts.

A traffic police spokesperson said that snow had accumulated on either side of the tunnel and also landslides had blocked the highway at several spots. He said the decision regarding allowing vehicular movement on the highway will be taken on Thursday after assessing the weather condition. The traffic department said that travellers should first confirm the status of the highway before beginning their journey.

Similarly, other highways connecting Kashmir, including Mughal Road, Kishtwar-Anantnag, and Srinagar-Leh highway were all closed for traffic due to snow accumulation. It is unlikely that the highway will be through for traffic on Thursday as the weather office has predicted more snow and rain in the region till Thursday afternoon. The weather department had forecast a wet spell triggered by western disturbances from February 5. According to Director of J&K Metrological department, Sonam Lotus, the weather is expected to improve from Thursday afternoon.

The disruption of air and surface traffic again spurred airliners and travel agents to fleece travellers by charging exorbitant airfares. A single traveller had to pay between Rs 14,000 and Rs 24,000 for flying on the Srinagar-Delhi route. Similarly, a flyer had to shell out more than Rs 15,000 for half-an-hour’s air travel between Srinagar and Jammu. Deputy Commissioner Srinagar, Syed Abid Rasheed Shah, said that the water-logging in the city has resulted from heavy precipitation and efforts were being made to de-water all the affected roads and lanes. According to him, Fire & Emergency Services have been instructed to use fire tenders and portable pumps for dewatering efforts.

Shah said the mechanical engineering department has also been instructed to ensure prompt snow-clearance in case of accumulation. He said helpline numbers 7051112345 and 9419042342 have been issued for public assistance. In the city, snow clearance vehicles were seen at several spots including Lal Chowk and Batamaloo for clearing roads.

However, life was thrown out of gear again in the evening due to heavy snowfall. It resulted in early closure of markets while thin vehicular traffic was visible on roads. At many places, commuters complained that public transport went off the roads, allowing auto rickshaws to fleece commuters. A commuter who could not find a passenger bus on the Batamaloo-Bemina route was charged Rs 60 after much haggling by an auto driver from Bemina crossing to cover a distance of about a kilometer.

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