Avalanches and slides triggered by heavy weekend snowfall in India’s portion of Kashmir have killed at least 154 people and left 200 missing, an official said Monday. Much of the region remained cut off for a third straight day, blanketed under the heaviest snowfall in 15 years.
At least 117 people were killed in avalanches that began Sunday night in a series of Kashmiri villages south of Srinagar, Kashmir’s main city, said police officer Imtiyaz Ahmed, who said the toll of the dead and missing remained incomplete.
Elsewhere in the region, three separate landslides killed eight people, police said.
“Because of heavy snow, we are unable to establish contact with most of the remote areas. The number of dead could increase as reports start to trickle in,” said Khursheed Ganai, a senior administrator of Kashmir valley.
At least 1,000 houses have been damaged in the region, which has received up to 15 feet of snow since Friday.
Rations dropped from the air
Many road and air links to Jammu-Kashmir were severed, and Indian Air Force pilots were flying in fuel, milk and other necessities. Helicopters had dropped 440 pounds of rations in a tunnel along the Srinagar-Jammu highway, where more than 100 soldiers from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police have taken shelter, said an army spokesman, Col. D.K. Badola.
Most of Srinagar’s usually busy roads were snowed in. People walked to work or to get supplies.
Thousands of motorists and truckers had been stranded on an avalanche-blocked highway between the state’s winter and summer capitals, but improving weather allowed rescuers to begin evacuating them on Monday.
Indian air force helicopters rescued 45 tourists who had been stranded for nearly a week in the Ladakh region, said Air Vice-Marshal S.K. Gehlaut.
Meanwhile, soldiers rescued a 65-year-old woman who had been buried under the snow for more than two days in southwestern Kashmir’s Loran village, said an Indian army spokesman, Col. D.K. Badola. The woman’s home was hit by an avalanche and collapsed Friday, and she was in a hospital, Badola said.
There were also power outages and severed telephone links.
“This snowfall is unprecedented,” said Srinagar resident Hasan Najar, 70. “We could do nothing except watch it snowing for three days.”