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With access to many areas still cut off, Jammu and Kashmir’s lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha on Sunday declared heavy snowfall in the Kashmir valley a natural calamity.

Sinha presided over a meeting by video link to take stock of efforts to clear snow-bound areas with district administrators and senior police officers of the Kashmir division.

“Heavy snowfall was not figuring in the list of natural calamities under SDRF norms, due to which disbursement of relief and ex-gratia payments for the damages due to heavy snowfall was not possible for the districts’ disaster management authorities,” said an official spokesman for the state administration. SDRF is short for State Disaster Response Fund.

The declaration of heavy snowfall as a natural calamity will enable the administration to process claims for ex-gratia payments under the SDRF, bringing relief to the residents of snow-bound areas.

The lieutenant governor sought a detailed report on problems being faced by the public because of the heavy winter snowfall.

“On being apprised about the shortage of small rescue vehicles for the movement of people requiring medical assistance, particularly, in remote areas and areas having narrow lanes, the lieutenant governor directed that 4×4 rescue vehicles / ambulances be provided to snow-affected districts with immediate effect for helping the people in distress,” the spokesman said in a statement.

Sinha asked the administrators and police officers to be more sensitive and responsive to the distress being confronted by the people.

“Be visible and take early measures. Need more feet on the ground. Quickly reach out to the people to address their needs and requirements”, he reportedly told the participants in the meeting, which reviewed the power scenario, snow clearance efforts, road connectivity and water and food supplies.