Flight operations resume to Srinagar, NH closed
STATE TIMES NEWS Jammu: The helicopter and ropeway service at the famous cave shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi remained suspended for the second day on Saturday due to inclement weather, Chief Executive Officer of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVDSB) Ramesh Kumar said. However, he said the pilgrimage is going on smoothly despite heavy snowfall and all necessary arrangements have been put in place to facilitate the devotees who are thronging the cave shrine atop Trikuta hills from across the country. The shrine along with adjoining areas witnessed first snowfall of the season on Thursday and Friday, forcing suspension of the helicopter and ropeway service. Over one feet of snow had accumulated in the shrine area, including Bhawan and Bahiron Ghati, Sanjichhat and Himkoti. “Barring suspension of chopper and ropeway service due to inclement weather, the track is open and the pilgrimage is going on smoothly,” said the CEO of SMVDSB. He said while 8,500 pilgrims visited the cave shrine on Friday amid snowfall, 8,000 had left the base camp Katra for the shrine by foot till this afternoon to pay obeisance at the shrine. Kumar said the resumption of the helicopter and the ropeway service to the shrine depends on the improvement of the weather. “Once the weather allows, both the suspended services will be resumed,” he said adding that the shrine board had made all necessary arrangements for the pilgrims. “The power supply is normal, heating arrangements have been made at different places while there is also sufficient stock of blankets and adequate accommodation for the pilgrims,” he said. Katra, the base camp for the pilgrims visiting the shrine, witnessed a dip in the night temperature which settled at 7.7 degrees Celsius on Saturday. Meanwhile, the air-traffic to and fro Kashmir was restored this afternoon after remaining suspended for seven consecutive days due to poor visibility caused by heavy fog and snowfall in the valley, officials said. “The flight operations resumed this (Saturday) afternoon after seven days, an official of the Airports Authority of India (AAI) said.
He said a SpiceJet flight landed at the Srinagar airport at around 12:15 pm and then took off around 1 pm.
The official said while the morning flights are cancelled due to poor visibility, the afternoon flights are scheduled to operate at the airport in view of the improving weather conditions.
“The weather has improved and visibility has also improved. All afternoon flights are scheduled to operate normally now,” he said.
Last Friday, several flights were cancelled due to bad weather, while no flight operations took place from Saturday to December 13.
The visibility at the airport, due to heavy fog, was less than 100 metres and such conditions were not suitable for flight operations.
“The required visibility for the flight operations is 1,000 to 1,200 metres. But, it was not more than 100 metres for the last week. So, the flight operations were hit,” the official said.
Over the past one week, heavy fog engulfed most parts of the valley, affecting the visibility and causing problems to the people, especially motorists.
Meanwhile, the Srinagar-Jammu national highway was closed for traffic for the third consecutive day on Saturday due to bad weather, a Traffic Department official said.
He said the highway was closed for traffic on Thursday evening after heavy snowfall around the Jawahar Tunnel — the gateway to the Kashmir Valley.
Efforts were on to clear the highway for traffic, the official added.
Srinagar recorded the minimum temperature of minus 0.5 degree Celsius, while Pahalgam minus 0.8 degree Celsius and Gulmarg minus 5 degrees Celsius, a MeT official said.
He said Drass, in Ladakh Union territory, recorded a low of minus 11 degrees Celsius, while Leh registered minus 10.1 degrees Celsius.
Jammu city recorded a low of 9.6 degrees Celsius, he added.
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