I know that this is a far reach back; however, I hadn’t heard anything at all about this disaster and its impacts until I was browsing the internet today. On the surface, record low temperatures averaging at about 30 degrees Fahrenheit with a few, much lower extremes might seem laughable in Virginia, but throughout the entire month of January, an estimated 41 people were killed in various locations centered around Kashmir, India as a result of a massive, month-long cold wave. In reading various articles, I believe this story highlights one of our fundamental concepts of how we address or fail to address the effects of hazards on more vulnerable populations which then, in turn, became disasters and catastrophes.
Chillai-Kalan is the name for the period of lowest temperatures and maximum snowfall in India, lasting from December 21st to January 31st. However, the lowest temperatures during this cold wave, which was recorded as beginning on January 3, 2017, were felt in Gulmarg at 9.7 degrees Fahrenheit, Kargil at 7 degrees Fahrenheit, and Kashmir at 3.9 degrees Fahrenheit. Rain and snowfall battered areas without any form of heating. The banks of Dal Lake in Srinagar froze. At least 41 people died, some due to traffic accidents as a result of the lingering fog and lack of visibility, and others due to exposure or other reasons. Additionally, five people were killed in resulting avalanches near the Kashmir area in the last days of the month, while fifteen soldiers died in other avalanches in neighboring sectors. These temperatures reflect the coldest January experienced in over 50 years, along with many other record-breaking snowfall accounts.
I found it interesting that I couldn’t turn up anything about overall, widespread mitigation efforts, only individual rescue teams organized for specific avalanche events which impacted army camps, nor any personal accounts or interviews.