India

Life halts as snow pounds Himachal

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SHIMLA: The heavy snow that pounded much of the north-western Himalayan belt on Thursday and Friday disrupted normal life and brought traffic to a standstill, uprooting big trees and electric poles, snapping power lines, freezing piped water lines and damaging several houses and cars.

In Lahaul-Spiti, Kinnaur and Chamba districts, it triggered avalanches at many places and cut off many villages.

In Kinnaur district, seven houses were buried under snow and two people, including a girl, went missing after an avalanche hit Runang village. According to sources, seven houses were buried under snow, and hundreds of apple trees damaged or uprooted.

Seven people from Jammu, staying in the house of one Budhi Ram, were buried under snow. While villagers managed to rescue five of them, they could not find one Ashok and his daughter. Given the poor weather conditions, an alert has been sounded in Kinnaur district.

In Lahaul-Spiti district, dozens of villages remained completely isolated due to heavy snow, while 20 panchayats of Chhota Bhangal in Kangra district had no power supply.

Restoring traffic has become a challenge as the heavy snow has brought the public transport system to a halt in snowbound areas.

According to Manmohan Singh, director meteorological office, "Shimla recorded 39cm of snow in last 24 hours. The last time it snowed so heavily in January 2004.''

Shimla DC Dinesh Mahlotra said the intense cold wave claimed a person's life at Kufri and a pregnant tourist was rescued from Mashobra and admitted to hospital.

He said traffic on the Shimla-Kalka road had been restored by noon, but it remained disrupted on the Shimla-Rampur highway as heavy machinery had been pressed into service to open the road at Kufri and Narkanda.

Traffic was being diverted to an alternative route between Shimla and Rampur, on which buses had started plying, said Mahlotra.

Shimla SP Abhishek Dular said that the snowfall had left several houses and vehicles damaged.

While the tourists are flocking tourist destinations of Shimla, Manali and Dalhousie to enjoy the fresh snowfall, people in snowbound areas of the state are facing the challenge of survival as blocked roads have resulted in shortage of essential supplies like milk, bread, vegetables, LPG and rations. Patients waiting to be airlifted are stranded at Udaipur and Keylong, waiting for the weather to improve.

Realizing that black marketers and hoarders would try to take advantage of adverse conditions, the state government started a helpline (1800 180 8026) from Saturday to ensure quick redressal of grievances of consumers pertaining to black marketing, hoarding and profiteering in the distribution of foodgrains and other essential commodities by wholesalers and fair price shop holders under Public Distribution System as well as other shopkeepers.

The Met office reported that Kapla in high altitude Kinnaur recorded 49cm of snow, Manali 36cm and Keylong in Lahaul district witnessed 11cm snowfall.

Lower hills were lashed by incessant rain, with Renuka getting 70mm, Poanta Sahib 66mm, Dharamshala 64mm and Kullu 41 mm of showers.