Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Ravaging windstorm jolts Kashmir Valley


1 Dies, Scores Injured As Frightening Winds Leave Behind Trail Of Destruction

IMRAN MUZAFFAR


Srinagar, Mar 20: One person was killed as violent wind wreaked havoc in the Kashmir Valley Tuesday leaving thousands of people without power supply amid smashed rooftops, uprooted trees, toppled power lines and poles and prompting the government to declare high alert.
A state government official said the windstorm which started Monday night and continued Tuesday without respite claimed its first victim in north Kashmir’s Ganderbal district when 50-year-old Muhammad Maqbool Magray died on the spot after a Chinar tree fell on his house crushing the victim under it.
“Seventeen other persons were injured in similar incidents across Kashmir due to the high speed winds blowing 80 kilometers per hour per hour,” an official spokesman said.



As fears run high amid street rumours that it was a prelude to “Qayamat” or the end of the world, old timers said they had never seen anything like this in the Kashmir Valley, nestled between lofty Himalayas and the Pir Panjal range of mountains.
“This is never seen before. Not as long as I remember. People may be right fearing that it may be the end of the world. The judgment day may be near,” Muhammed Abdullah Sofi, a Srinagar resident in his late eighties, told IANS when asked if he had seen such a strong windstorm hitting the valley earlier.
Most people in the valley preferred to remain indoors as strong winds reaching upto 80 km per hour speed left roadways strewn with debris. Rooftops of hundreds of homes across the Valley were blown away as school buildings, shopping complexes and boundary walls of many structures also collapsed.
“The nightlong strong winds have wreaked havoc in Bandipora district of the Valley where hundreds of rooftops have been blown away and scores of trees uprooted.
In Srinagar, the old city areas Habba Kadal, Fateh Kadal, Khanaqah-e-Moula, Mahraj Gung, Saraf Kadal, Aali Kadal and other areas including Lal Bazaar, Dargah, Soura, Gaw Kadal, Brein Nishat, Harwan, Dara, the houses suffered maximum damages while as the business establishments including, shops, school buildings and electricity transmission lines and poles were also damaged due to strong winds,” Aamir Ali said, adding that scores of poles were lying on the road at various places of the Srinagar city. He said that scores of billboards and shop hoardings were also blown off.
One of the reports said that nearly 9000 structures including 6670 residential houses were damaged in the wind storm.
Police said three tourists had a miraculous escape when a pine tree collapsed on a tourism department hut in south Kashmir Pahalgam hill station. The tourists were safely rescued. People in Srinagar’s Lal Bazaar and Newtheed areas, located across the banks of Dal Lake and where the damage was the worst, maintained states of emergency amid specially called prayers in mosques.
Dozens of houseboats on the Dal Lake were also damaged and police rescued over two dozen tourists from inside the lake.
Due to gusty winds, many tourists were evacuated from Dal Lake to the shore for their safety and were accommodated in alternate hotels by the Quick Response Team of State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) led by Ghulam Haider Dy. SP and Ghulam Jeelani, SDPO Nehru Park. Lakes and Water Ways Development Authority too had deployed its men to rescue the tourist from the “dangerous waters.”
Scores of poplar trees lining the roads and highways were uprooted snapping inter-district road connectivity in south and north Kashmir areas.
The people living the city remained awake during the night fearing that the wind storm might damage their houses. “The children were also terrified due the noise generated by the strong winds,” the residents of Shahr-e-Khas said.
Authorities ordered closure of all public and private schools in the valley.
Kashmir University authorities decided to suspend classes after a tall, centuries old chinar tree collapsed inside the Chinar Bagh complex of the varsity.
Muhammad Muzaffar Mattu, top power department official told IANS that “massive damage” has been caused to electric poles, transmission lines and transformers.
“Although our power import supply lines are intact, restoration of the damaged transmission systems will take some time. We have moved everybody out on restoration work.”
All the government district headquarters have been converted into emergency control rooms to meet any eventuality.
The commercial hub of Lal Chowk and Amira Kadal Chowk didn’t witness the rush of people as it used to.
An official statement said roof tops of 727 houses including a Masjid at Urdu Bazaar were damaged. “As many as 400 houses were damaged in Harwan and 255 houses were damaged in Nehru Park, besides, one person also received injuries. Two private vehicles were also damaged in the windstorm,” it said. At Dalgate, the first floor of Hotel Crescent at Pedestrian Mall Dalgate collapsed in the early morning. In Nishat area, the houses on the Zabarwan hill were left roofless as storm stormed into the posh area. The situation inside Dal Lake was chaotic. As many as ten houseboats were partially damaged.
Extensive damages have been reported to the LT/HT network across Valley. Officials said 130 MW has been restored as against 900 MW and restoration work was in progress. All Deputy Commissioners have been asked to activate control rooms in their districts so that the rescue and relief can be coordinated, an official said.

NORTH KASHMIRAt least 3500 structures including 1731 residential houses were damaged in North Kashmir’s Bandipora district. Hundreds of electric poles were uprooted due to the winds resulting in electricity failure.
As per the initial reports about 3500 structures were damaged due to the gusty winds on Monday night. Out of these, 1731 were partially damaged residential houses, 270 completely damaged houses and 2100 partially damaged non-residential structures.
Three policemen were also injured when a police post got damaged in Pethkoot, Bandipora.
Two government school buildings also got damaged in Khenusa and Mantrigam villages.
The damages were also reported from the 14 Panchayat blocks of Bandipora constituency comprising about 60 villages. The worst hit blocks are Mantrigam, Gamoora, Garoora, Nadihal and Bonknoot where 125, 125, 138, 191 and 60 residential houses were damaged respectively.
As many as 12 houses were damaged in Ongam, 10 in Aloosa, 77 in main town Bandipora, more than 50 in Sonawari, 22 in Kaloosa-Nathpora, 20 in Quil Muqam, 39 in Qazipora and 25 houses were reported to have been damaged in the Onagam village.
Magistrate Sonawari, Zaffar Ahmed told Greater Kashmir that the windstorm has blown the rooftops of about 300 houses in Sumbal while the 1155 residential houses have been reported as damaged.
“We have 47 villages in the Sonawari where about 1155 residential house have got damaged due to the winds while 622 non residential structures have also suffered damages,” Zaffar said.
Locals from far flung villages like Bhuto, Vewan, Kudara and Sarinder told Greater Kashmir that winds have uprooted thousands of trees in the forest areas.
Property worth lakhs of rupees was damaged in Kupwara by powerful winds which forced people to stay indoors.
Stormy winds are intermittently blowing in this frontier district, creating panic among the people.
Ghulam Rasool Lone of Chinjmoola Handwara got injured last evening when a CGI sheet hit him. He has been shifted to Srinagar for specialized treatment.
As per the reports, at least 500 structures including some residential houses were damaged by the strong winds.
“More than 300 structures were damaged in the Lolab area. We are making the assessment of the losses,” said Tehsildar Kupwara, Wali Muhammad Shah.
Remote areas of Karnah and Keran located near Kishanganga (Neelam) River were also hit.
A woman was injured in Rafiabad due to the house collapse. The injured has been identified as Reshma Bano.
Heavy damage was reported from Rafiabad where 120 houses suffered damages. Among them 33 were completely damaged while 97 others were partially damaged.
In main town Sopore 15 houses were damaged among them seven were completely damaged and eight partially.
Reports said 1507 residential houses were damaged due to the gusty winds in Baramulla. Among them 22 were fully damaged and 1485 partially, while in the category of non-residential houses, 297 were fully and 1804 were partially damaged due to strong winds.
Strong winds damaged roofs of dozens of houses in this North Kashmir area. The houses in villages of Devpora, Wanigam, Ferozpora, Wailo were damaged. A parked vehicle in Ferozpora village got damaged when a rooftop fell on it.
As many as 12 people including four minors received injuries across the district and hundreds of roof tops of houses, electric poles, cowsheds, fencings and walls in the block Kangan, Ganderbal, Lar and Wakura were damaged due to strong winds. Electricity supply was also disrupted in the district.

SOUTH KASHMIR
Gusty winds that swept the Kashmir valley damaged property, uprooted electric poles, uprooted trees and blocked several roads in South Kashmir. At least a dozen persons including tourists were injured at different places.
Five persons were injured at various places of Islamabad (Anantnag) district due to the mishaps caused by the high speed winds that have been blowing since Monday evening.  The winds also damaged rooftops of many houses, smashed their window panes while some houses developed cracks. “At least 338 residential houses and 144 other structures were damaged in Islamabad (Anantnag) district,” said an official.
The strong winds also uprooted the trees at various places thus blacking several roads including Pahalgam Road, Dooru –Verinag road and Kokernag, Shangus roads and some interior roads of Qazigund. Kokernag area according to the officials has incurred maximum loss to the property. “At least 105 residential and 37 non residential structures were damaged in the area,” said an official.
Reports further said that electricity was snapped in the entire district as well Islamabad (Anantnag) town after the electric poles were uprooted and electric lines fell down.
Reports of heavy damage to property were also received from Kulgam district. “More than 400 houses were damaged in the district while about eight houses collapsed and several houses developed cracks,” said an official.
He said that in Damhal-Hanjipora Tehsil only, 250 houses and cowsheds were damaged. At least four persons were reportedly injured. One of the critically injured, Bashir Ahmad Malik of Daniv Kandimarg is undergoing treatment in District hospital, Kulgam. “People living in hilly areas of the Damhal have moved down,” said Muhammad Sidique, a resident.
In Pulwama district, heavy loss to residential houses has been reported in upper areas of Sangarwani and Abhama. In Tral 75 structures including residential houses and cowsheds were damaged. A lady, identified as Shameema daughter of Tota Gujjar of Aripal, Tral was critically injured when the roof top of her house blew off this afternoon and fell on her. She was shifted to hospital. Several houses were also damaged in Shopian district also. About 20 houses reportedly collapsed in the Sedhav and Kellar areas of the district where many trees got uprooted due to the high velocity winds.
Apple trees were uprooted due to the strong winds. In the main town of Shopian rooftops of houses were blown away. Near about 100 households suffered heavy loss.

5 CHINARS UPROOTEDFive majestic Chinar, some believed to be as old as 400-years, at Nishat Garden here were uprooted by strong winds that swept across Kashmir.

FLIGHTS CANCELLED
Due to strong winds, seven flights were cancelled at Srinagar Airport. However, 11 flights arrived and later ferried the passengers back to Delhi, PRO Airport, Muhammad Shafi told Greater Kashmir.
(WITH INPUTS FROM KHALID GUL, SUHAIL AJMAL, ALTAF BABA, SHEIKH NAZIR, SOFI IMTIYAZ, GHULAM MUHAMMAD, SHOWKAT DAR AND IANS)