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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 February, 2005, 01:49 GMT
Avalanches in Kashmir kill 115
A bus station is covered with snow in Srinagar, summer capital of Kashmir
Snowfalls have brought the region to a standstill
At least 115 people have been killed and scores more are missing in Indian-administered Kashmir following the worst snowfalls in two decades.

Avalanches crushed homes at the weekend in the worst-hit area - villages south of Srinagar - killing about 70 people.

Troops rescued one 65-year-old woman who had been buried under the snow for two days in the Poonch region.

The Indian air force says it has also rescued 45 tourists, mostly foreigners, from Ladakh.

'Number may rise'

Soldiers and medical personnel are searching for survivors in the worst-hit region - the series of villages in the Anantnag district south of state summer capital, Srinagar, which have seen 4.5 metres (15 feet) of snow since Friday.

We have no information about scores of villages in avalanche-prone areas as there is no communication
Satish Nehru,
deputy commissioner of Leh

Khursheed Ganai, a senior administrator in the Kashmir valley, said: "Because of heavy snow, we are unable to establish contact with most of the remote areas.

"The number of dead could increase as reports start to trickle in."

Many flights in Indian-controlled Kashmir have been cancelled, major roads blocked and communications cut, officials say.

The Indian army, which has thousands of troops based in the Himalayan region, has been brought in for rescue work and is providing food and shelter for some of the victims.

On Monday, 65-year-old Hanifa Begum was pulled out of the snow in Poonch after being buried for 50 hours in an avalanche that hit her house.

In Ladakh, eight Britons and 16 French nationals were among the tourists rescued by the air force after being trapped in heavy snowfall.

Two people have also been killed in a house collapse in Dras district and four members of India's Border Roads Organisation died in avalanches.

Another 27 bodies have reportedly been recovered from other avalanches across the state.

No electricity

Thousands of travellers remain stranded for the fifth consecutive day on the main 300km (185 mile) Jammu-Srinagar highway that links the valley of Kashmir with the rest of India.

Srinagar queues
Queues in Srinagar for cooking gas

Helicopters dropped rations to more than 100 soldiers who have taken shelter in a tunnel along the highway.

Officials have warned of more avalanches that could make opening roads difficult in the next few days.

There has been no electricity in Srinagar for the past three days and water supplies have now been affected as well, officials say.

"There's no water or electricity. This is the first time in 20 years I have seen something like this," Srinagar resident Ghulam Rasool told Reuters.

Ten helicopters have brought 40 tonnes of food and other supplies to Srinagar from Jammu.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See the heavy snowfalls in Kashmir



SEE ALSO:
Avalanches: A fatal attraction
29 Mar 00 |  In Depth


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