left corner left corner
China Daily Website

Pakistan avalanche buries 139 people

Updated: 2012-04-09 04:21
( Xinhua)

ISLAMABAD - Four more people were found buried in Pakistan avalanche, bringing to 139 the total number of such people engulfed by the huge snow slide that hit an army camp in the country's northern Siachen Glacier area on Saturday, local Urdu TV channel Geo quoted army sources as saying on Sunday.

Prior to this, late on Saturday night, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), a mouthpiece of Pakistan army, announced that 135 people including 124 soldiers and 11 civilians came under a snow slide when a massive avalanche hit a Northern Light Infantry battalion headquarters located in the Gayari sector of the Siachen Glacier on Saturday morning.

In a press release about Sunday's visit paid by the Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to the avalanche-hit area, ISPR said that the army chief visited Siachen to personally see the rescue operation launched to recover "139 soldiers and civilians trapped under the avalanche."

But the ISPR press release failed to explain why the number has changed from 135 to 139 and who are the four more people found buried under the avalanche.

Despite the fact that over 42 hours have passed since the occurrence of the avalanche at about 6:00 am local time Saturday, no sign of life has been found on the avalanche-hit site, which is now buried under a massive snow slide measuring one square kilometer in size and some 20 meters in height. Nor have any bodies been recovered so far, said an army spokesman.

Difficulty terrain, inclement weather and probably lack of proper equipment and expertise have hindered the progress of the rescue work though nearly 240 soldiers and civilians, backed up with five army helicopters, heavy machinery airlifted from somewhere else and sniffer dogs, are desperately searching for the missing people on the site which sits in a valley between two high mountains at an altitude of over 4,000 meters.

Local meteorological officials predicted heavy snowfall in the area on Tuesday, leaving limited time for the rescue workers to find the missing people in the avalanche.

Even now the rescue work has to be stopped when darkness sets in, said army sources.

Pakistan Army Chief General Kayani, while inspecting the rescue operation on the site, said that efforts are underway to acquire latest technical equipment for the rescue.

An eight-member rescue team from the United Stated has reportedly arrived in Islamabad on Sunday evening to provide technical assistance in the rescue operation. Some other neighboring countries have also offered help to Pakistan, said local media.

The avalanche that hit the Pakistani army camp in Siachen is said to be the worst of its kind over the last 20 years since its existence there.

Located in the eastern Karakoram range in the Himalayas, just east of the Line of Control that divides Pakistan and India in the disputed Kashmir region, the 70-kilometer-long Siachen Glacier is the world's second longest glacier in the non-polar areas.

It is also the world's highest battlefield. Both Pakistan and India have fought wars over the area. Currently each side has deployed thousands of troops in the disputed region.

Local media said that severe weather, coupled with avalanches and other natural disasters, in the Siachen Glacier area has claimed more lives of soldiers from both sides than the wars between them.

The lowest temperature in the area is said to be minus 50 degrees Celsius in deep winter.

The chance for the survival of the buried people looks very slim, lamented a retired Pakistani army general.