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Indian Air Force airlifts stranded tourists in Kashmir

Srinagar, Sat, 21 Jan 2012 ANI

Srinagar, Jan 21 (ANI): The Indian Air Force (IAF) on Saturday, came to the rescue of hundreds of stranded tourists and other passengers on the highway connecting Jammu to the Kashmir valley.


Due to prolonged snowfall, these people had been left stranded for the last six-seven days on the highway.


Around 550 people, stranded in Jammu over the past fortnight, were airlifted by AN-32 and IL-76 aircraft of IAF to Srinagar.


Briefing the mediapersons, Divisional Commissioner of Jammu, Pawan Kotwal, said the Border Road Organisation is clearing snow along the 300-kilometres long national highway, connecting the winter and summer capitals of Jammu and Kashmir.


He informed that the highway has been reopened for one-way traffic to let in more than 350 vehicles carrying essential supplies.


"From last few days as the national highway has been shutdown, so many Kashmir bound passengers were stranded in Jammu and yesterday, when we received the window of clearance of national highway, some people were transported by road in 14 vehicles. They have reached Banihal and in another half an hour or one hour, they will reach the valley," said Kotwal.


He also said the tourists have been charged nominal flight rates, around 550 civilians and thousand defence personnel are also being airlifted.


"After the verification, around 566 tourists have been registered and those tourists have arrived at the airport and their boarding is in progress, after security clearance. After this another batch will arrive; so in total, today there are two sorties of elevation, through which we will send them to the valley," added Kotwal.


The stranded passengers expressed their gratitude to the IAF saving them from severe cold conditions. One of them recalled that he and his family members faced problems of accommodation and food, as they were left with practically no money to continue their stay in Jammu.


"I had been stranded here since 13th. We faced lot of problems, though elders were fine but the children faced lot of problems. Snowfall takes place everywhere in the world but when snowfall takes place in Kashmir, it gets disconnected from other parts," said Farooq Ahmad, a stranded passenger who was airlifted from Jammu to Srinagar.


The Himalayan region continued to witness intense cold as the temperature plummeted to subzero levels in Srinagar and Jammu city.


The state that witnessed heavy influx of tourists few days back, at present has transformed into a deserted land as their number dwindled due to heavy snowfall. (ANI)


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