Kashmiris suffer due to dry spell, extreme cold

By F. Ahmed, IANS

Srinagar : The worst part of winter is yet to start in Jammu and Kashmir but people are already shivering with night temperatures falling three degrees below freezing point. Many are in the grip of influenza.

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Clear night skies have helped the falling temperatures and, according to meteorological experts, the weather is likely to remain dry for at least another fortnight.

“There have been no rains for the last two months. Extreme dryness, dust and bitter cold have resulted in widespread influenza and other chest related diseases,” said Sajad Ahmad, a doctor here.

Muzaffar Ahmad, 51, a college teacher, said: “Unless it rains or snows in the near future here, the temperatures here are likely to fall further. Clear skies help radiation, thereby bringing down the night temperatures.”

Despite the alarm raised by the people about the extended dry spell and unusual fall in night temperatures here, the weather office says there is nothing extraordinary about the phenomenon.

“November is always the dry month of the year in Kashmir. Yes, this November has been a little drier than the rest, but in 1989 and 2002 the valley experienced similar weather conditions in the month,” said N.P. Bhatnagar, the director of the local meteorological office here.

Bhatnagar also said most of the autumn and winter rains and snowfall in Kashmir occur because of western disturbances that come here from the Caspian Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.

“This time there has been no build-up of the westerlies so far. We are expecting a small system to develop around the first week of December and that could bring in some rain and snowfall to Kashmir,” Bhatnagar said.

“Water tapes have frozen at some places in the city. Electric supply is erratic. Perhaps it is going to be another extreme winter this year,” said Muhammad Shafi Bhat, 48, a businessman here.

Shivering schoolchildren waiting at bus stops is a common sight here these days.

“Despite wearing a woollen jersey and a tweed coat, my son, Asif, caught a cold. He couldn’t go to school,” said Sakina Begum, 35, of Pandach, a suburb of the city.

Students taking various board and university exams here these days also face problems writing their papers inside the examination halls without any heating arrangements.

“My hands are numbed during the three hours I have to sit inside the examination hall. There are no heating facilities in the big examination hall at our college,” said Shazia, 23, taking her bachelor’s exam here.

Reports from the Ladakh region of the state indicate even worse weather conditions there.

“In Leh, the night temperatures fell to minus 11.8 degrees Celsius Wednesday. It is humanly impossible to move out after sunset,” Farooq Ahmad, 29, a government employee, told IANS on phone from Ladakh.

(F.Ahmed can be contacted at [email protected])