Pak Army finds spots to search avalanche survivors

Last Updated: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 21:20

Islamabad: Racing against time to rescue 138
people, mostly soldiers buried in an avalanche in the Siachen
sector, rescuers began digging five specific spots even as
experts on Tuesday said there was little chance of finding any
survivors.

"Five spots have been identified," near the army`s
battalion headquarters at Gyari, which was wiped out by a
devastating snow slide on Saturday.

"Two points are being dug with equipment while three
points are being dug manually," a military statement said as
over 72 hours after the snow fury, rescuers were yet to come
across any survivors or bodies.

The military said that over 450 people were involved in
the relief efforts aided by two bulldozers, two heavy earth
movers, three excavators and two dumpers.

The rescue operation was continuing "despite weather
hazards" at Gyari, the location where the soldiers are buried
up to 80 feet of snow.

First photographs released by the military of the site of
avalanche showed no traces visible of the 6th Northern Light
Infantry headquarters.

A seven-member team from the Strategic Plans Division was
using "life detection kits and thermal imaging cameras" to try
and locate the buried men.

Media reports said the rescue teams had removed 40 feet of
snow and cleared a path to the buried camp.

However, three rescue teams from the US, Germany and
Switzerland were unable to fly to Skardu, the town closest to
Gyari, due to bad weather.

Experts said the chances of finding any survivors were
fading fast as three days had elapsed since the avalanche.

Lt Gen (retired) Ayaz Ahmed, who commanded troops in the
area, told the media that the temperature under the snow could
be as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius.

"In such low temps, oedema will set in and the time for
survival is (very) less," Ahmed said.

Ghulam Rasool, an expert on glaciers at the meteorology
department, said the Gyari region was witnessing intermittent
cloudiness and snowfall.

He said the weather was not expected to improve till April
12, when there would be a clear spell for a few hours in the
afternoon.

Rasool further said the weather in Skardu is expected to
clear only on April 13 and flights to the town could be held
up till then.

The military today issued a revised list of the 138 people
buried in the avalanche, including 127 soldiers and 11
civilian employees like waiters, barbers and a tailor.

Pakistan Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had visited
the site on Sunday to supervise rescue operations.
The headquarters at Gyari is the main gateway through
which troops and supplies pass on their way to remote outposts
in the Siachen sector.

Indian and Pakistani troops have been engaged in standoff
on Siachen since 1984.

However, the guns have largely been silent since late
2003, when the two countries put in place a ceasefire along
the frontiers in Jammu and Kashmir, including the Actual
Ground Position Line in Siachen.

With soldiers deployed at heights of up to 20,000 feet at
temperatures as low as minus 50 degrees Celsius, more troops
on both sides have died due to adverse weather than combat on
the world`s highest and coldest battlefield.

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 21:20

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