January 16

This Day in History

Disaster

Jan 16, 1995:

Avalanches bury buses in Kashmir

Avalanches sweep two buses off the highway between Srinagar and Jammu in Kashmir, India, on this day in 1995. Two more days of avalanches in the area eventually killed more than 200 people; 5,000 others had to be rescued.

January 1995 produced unusually heavy snow in the Kashmir region, an area already beset by years of war between India and Pakistan. Between the cities of Srinagar and Jammu is a narrow 110-mile highway through the foothills of the Himalayas. On January 16, the accumulating snow caused a series of avalanches above the highway. Several buses traveling the route were knocked off the road by the sliding snow and debris. Of the 200 people who died in the avalanches, most were riding on buses.

The avalanches and snow drifts also blocked the road in several places, leaving more than 5,000 motorists stranded 7,000 feet above sea level with no way of escape. Four hundred people were trapped in the mile-and-a-half-long Jawahar tunnel for several days. Although India had close to 500,000 soldiers in the area, there was little or no relief effort for days. Finally, a helicopter dropped off blankets and food at the mouth of the tunnel. Still, a handful of people died of exposure before help arrived.

When the snow finally ended on January 20, the stranded travelers were rescued. An official inquiry later blamed poor communications for the delayed response to this disaster.

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