350 stranded tourists, locals at Zojila Pass rescued by Army

Srinagar/Jammu, Nov 22 (PTI) About 350 tourists and locals, stranded due to heavy snowfall, were rescued by Army from 11,500 feet high Zojila pass along Srinagar-Leh national highway, a defence spokesman said on Friday.

The night-long rescue operation in coordination with civil administration was carried out by army rescue columns despite continuous snowfall and sub-zero temperature, Srinagar-based defence spokesman Col Rajesh Kalia said in a statement.

Visitors to the area got stuck as regions around the pass like Sonamarg, Baltal and Nilgrar received heavy snowfall since Thursday which also led to traffic jams at many places, leaving over 250 trucks and passenger vehicles stranded.

Since November 21, he said the vehicles had moved from Sonamarg towards Zojila Pass but the untimely and heavy snowfall, especially on the higher reaches, resulted in many vehicles skidding off the road and getting stranded in the snow, causing a traffic jam at many places.

'The traffic jam resulted in a very dangerous situation, wherein approximately 300-350 people, including women and children, were stranded at heights above 11,000 feet height and temperatures at minus seven degrees.

'In coordination with the civil administration, Army rescue columns moved in vehicles promptly with aid and administrative assistance to rescue the stranded civilians from the Zojila Pass,' he said.

Col Kalia said while the Police and GREF personnel got busy with clearing the traffic and snow respectively, the Army columns started providing immediate medical aid and assistance.

'The stranded vehicles were recovered and organised for moving back. The passengers of the vehicles which were stuck badly were evacuated safely back to Sonamarg town in Army vehicles,' he said.

He said much needed medical assistance, hot food and blankets were provided for the night by the Army.

'This immediate and pro-active action by the Army was critical in ensuring timely rescue, relief and saving precious lives. The humanitarian assistance provided to the 'Awam' (people) in their hour of need was much appreciated,' the officer said.

Zojila pass is situated at an altitude of 11,578 feet on the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh National Highway. PTI NES TAS RCJ

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