At least 100 Pakistani soldiers were buried alive early on Saturday in a remote area in the Himalayas when an avalanche smashed into their camp, the military said.
Troops with sniffer dogs, aided by helicopters, were frantically trying to find signs of survivors in the snow after the avalanche engulfed the camp in Gayari, Siachen, in Pakistan’s north, close to the sensitive border with India.
A team of doctors and paramedics has also been rushed to the mountainous area, which suffers extreme weather conditions, a security official told AFP.
“More than 100 soldiers of NLI (Northern Light Infantry) including a colonel were trapped when the avalanche hit a military camp,” army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told AFP.
“The rescue mission is continuing and rescuers are trying to rescue the soldiers.”
A Pakistan military statement said the avalanche struck Saturday morning.
“Around 100 persons of army came under a snow slide early this morning in Gayari sector near Skardu,” it said.
“Rescue efforts are on. Sniffing dogs, helicopters and troops on ground are employed on rescue efforts,” the statement added.
State-run Pakistan television said rescuers were facing difficulties getting heavy machinery to the far-flung area. It also said the avalanche hit early in the morning, raising the possibility that soldiers were asleep at the time.
Avalanches and landslides frequently block roads and leave communities isolated in the mountains of Pakistan, neighbouring Afghanistan and in Kashmir, the Himalayan territory divided between rivals India and Pakistan.
The Kashmir region — of which Siachen is a part — is divided between Pakistan and India, and is claimed by both in full.
In February, at least 16 Indian soldiers on duty in the mountains of Kashmir were killed when two avalanches swept through army camps.
Kashmir has caused two of the three wars between the neighbours since their independence in 1947 from Britain.
Both Pakistan and India have deployed thousands of soldiers in Kashmir but harsh weather there is said to have claimed many more lives than actual fighting.
Siachen is close to four of the world’s 14 peaks over 8,000 metres — K2, Broad Peak, Gasherbrum I and Gasherbrum II — all of which are on the Pakistani side of the frontline
Published in Ottawacitizen