The Srinagar-Jammu highway, the only fair weather road linking Kashmir with rest of the world, remained closed for the fifth consecutive day on Sunday as fresh landslides at different places hit the restoration work, officials said.
However, they said efforts were on and a decision to allow traffic on the highway would be taken later after reviewing the progress of the ongoing debris clearance operation.
The highway was closed for traffic on Wednesday following heavy snowfall and incessant rains which triggered avalanches and landslides at various places especially between Qazigund-Banihal-Ramban stretch including Jawahar Tunnel - the gateway to Kashmir valley.
“Over a dozen landslides were cleared despite frosty conditions and intermittent shooting of stones from the hillocks on Saturday but fresh landslides had occurred at Kela Morh, Battery cheshma, Digdole, Panthiyal and Khuni Nallah overnight leaving the road once again blocked," Ramban Deputy Superintendent of Police, Traffic, Suresh Sharma said.
He said continuous shooting of stones at Panthiyal and frosty condition of the road in the snow-bound areas were posing a major challenge to the agencies involved in the clearance operation.
“The men and machinery are on the job and if the hills get stabilised and there will be no fresh landslide, the road stretch from Ramban to Banihal will be cleared for the traffic by late afternoon," he said.
Sharma said the snow clearance operation was almost complete including at Jawahar Tunnel where an avalanche had also struck on Thursday, blocking one of the tunnels on Qazigund side besides killing eight persons including six police and fire and emergency services personnel.
In view of the closure of the highway, the Indian Air Force (IAF) launched special sorties of C17 Globemaster, airlifting 538 persons including 319 GATE aspirants between Jammu and Srinagar on Friday and Saturday.
"A total of 319 students appearing in Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) on February 10 onward were airlifted from Srinagar airport to Jammu airport on Friday and Saturday," a defence spokesman said.
He said while 179 students were airlifted from Srinagar to Jammu, 180 civilians struck in Jammu were airlifted to Srinagar on Friday.
Similarly, he said 179 persons comprising 140 students and 39 locals and tourists were airlifted to Srinagar to Jammu on Saturday.