Pakistan army hopes miracle will save avalanche victims

ISLAMABAD Sun Apr 8, 2012 12:09pm IST

The Siachen Glacier in Jammu and Kashmir. October 4, 2003 REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski/Files

The Siachen Glacier in Jammu and Kashmir. October 4, 2003

Credit: Reuters/Pawel Kopczynski/Files

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan's military hoped for a miracle on Sunday as rescue teams searched for 124 soldiers and 11 civilians buried by a Himalayan avalanche near the Indian border, with no sign of survivors more 24 hours later.

The avalanche engulfed a Pakistani army battalion headquarters near a glacier early on Saturday, leaving snow up to 80 feet (25 metres) deep over an area a kilometre wide.

The victims are trapped in one of the most unforgiving environments on Earth, at an altitude of 15,000 feet (4,500 metres) near the Siachen Glacier in the Karakoram mountain range.

"Let's hope for a miracle," a military official, who asked to remain anonymous, told Reuters.

Helicopter rescue teams and troops on the ground with sniffer dogs were racing against time.

"On Wednesday and Thursday we expect cloudy conditions and some snow fall as well which will make it difficult for any rescue operations to continue," said meteorologist Mohammed Hanif on state television.

The area is also one of the world's most militarily tense frontiers, where the Indian and Pakistani armies have confronted each other over disputed territory for decades.

Eleven civilian employees of the military were buried under the snow along with the soldiers of the 6 Northern Light Infantry Battalion, the military said in a statement.

The army listed the names of the missing on its public relations website, from officers to waiters to barbers.

The military has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its 64 year history, setting foreign and security policy even when civilian governments are in power, as is the case now.

Siachen is in the northern part of the Himalayan region of Kashmir. The no-man's-land of Siachen is 20,000 feet (6,000 metres) above sea level.

Military experts say the inhospitable climate and avalanche-prone terrain have claimed more lives than gunfire.

Muslim-majority Kashmir is at the heart of hostility between India and Pakistan and was the cause of two of their three full-scale wars since independence from Britain in 1947.

Siachen has been described as the world's highest battlefield. Indian and Pakistani troops have fought at altitudes of over 20,000 feet in temperatures of minus 60 degrees Celsius.

Between 10,000 and 20,000 Indian and Pakistani troops are stationed in the mountains above the glacier.

A tentative peace process is under way, with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari scheduled to meet Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday, the first visit to India by a Pakistani head of state since 2005.

(Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Nick Macfie)

FILED UNDER:
Photo

After wave of QE, onus shifts to leaders to boost economy

DAVOS, Switzerland - Central banks have done their best to rescue the world economy by printing money and politicians must now act fast to enact structural reforms and pro-investment policies to boost growth, central bankers said on Saturday.

Barack Obama in India

Reuters Showcase

Coal Mining

Coal Mining

India to open coal to commercial mining firms soon, minister says  Full Article 

RBI Loan Rules

RBI Loan Rules

RBI relaxes overseas loan recast rules   Full Article 

E-commerce Firms

E-commerce Firms

Amazon, e-commerce rivals fuel commercial property boom in India  Full Article 

Growth Forecasts

Growth Forecasts

Indian economic growth forecasts pegged back, despite rate cuts: Reuters Poll.  Full Article 

Uber is Back

Uber is Back

Uber back in Delhi; govt says must await approval.  Full Article 

Markets at Record

Markets at Record

Sensex rises to record after ECB stimulus programme.  Full Article 

Pharma Sector

Pharma Sector

Ipca Labs hit by FDA ban on plant for standard violations.  Full Article | Related Story 

Forex Reserves

Forex Reserves

India FX reserves at record high as RBI fortifies defences  Full Article 

QE for Euro Zone

QE for Euro Zone

ECB launches 1 trillion euro rescue plan to revive euro economy.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device  Full Coverage