Siachen Glacier: Tragedy hits world’s highest battlefield

Published: April 8, 2012

At least 124 soldiers, 11 civilians trapped as avalanche hits army camp in Baltistan. PHOTO: FILE

GILGIT / ISLAMABAD: 

Darkness and bad weather forced rescuers to postpone their search on Saturday after an avalanche smashed into a Pakistan Army camp, burying at least 124 soldiers and 11 civilians in “the world’s highest battleground”.

Over 150 soldiers, with sniffer dogs and aided by helicopters, had been deployed to search in the deep snow after the avalanche engulfed the camp in mountainous Giari sector of Baltistan region, near Siachen Glacier, in Kashmir.

“The dark and bad weather has forced us to stop rescue work. We will resume it early morning,” a security official told AFP late in the evening after a frantic rescue operation throughout the day.

Army spokesperson Maj Gen Athar Abbas said that despite hours of hectic search, no bodies or survivors had been found.

“It’s too early to say anything,” he replied when asked about the chances of finding anyone alive after more than 12 hours.

The trapped troops and civilians, paid out of the defence establishment, belonged to the 6 Northern Light Infantry Battalion, the headquarters of which has been situated in  the same place for the last 20 years.

The avalanche struck early on Saturday morning, a military statement said, raising the possibility that the buried soldiers were asleep at the time.

“More than 100 soldiers of NLI (Northern Light Infantry), including a colonel, were trapped when the avalanche hit a military camp,” Maj-Gen Abbas said earlier in the day.

By the evening, the Inter-Services Public Relations, the media arm of the military, stated that 124 troops and 11 civilians were trapped in the avalanche, which occurred at an altitude of about 16,000 feet.

Independent sources, however, put the number of trapped soldiers at 130. “The number of the buried soldiers could be nearly 130,” official sources in Gilgit told The Express Tribune.

The snow left by the avalanche is up to 80 feet deep and stretched over one kilometre area, state television quoted Maj Gen Abbas as saying.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani expressed deep shock at the potentially heavy loss of life and regret over the ‘unfortunate snow slide’.

A statement from the prime minister stated that he is in constant contact with the concerned authorities regarding the rescue operation. “The incident in no way will undermine the high morale of soldiers and officers,” he said.

‘World’s highest
battleground’

In 1984, India occupied the key areas on Siachen Glacier, including the heights, and Pakistan immediately responded by deploying its own forces. They fought a fierce battle in 1987, raising fears of all-out conflict.

The heavily militarised glacier is over 20,800 feet high, but despite its limited strategic importance both countries have spent heavily to keep a military presence there.

India reportedly forks out more than $800,000 daily on its Siachen deployment – a figure that does not include additional wages and bonuses.

Experts have previously said that India has around 5,000 troops on the glacier, while Pakistan has less than half that number. The harsh weather and the altitude claim many more lives than actual fighting. (ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM AGENCIES)

Published in The Express Tribune, April 8th, 2012.

Reader Comments (29)

  • MarkH
    Apr 8, 2012 - 10:38AM

    80 feet… That’s not good news. I’ll leave the sympathetic words to others. I’m terrible at that kind of thing.

    Recommend

  • Adeel759
    Apr 8, 2012 - 10:40AM

    Deeply distressed by this tragedy, defenders of the motherland know that nation remembers you and pray for you. God bless you and your comrades. Nation has complete faith in Pak Army’s rescue efforts.

    Recommend

  • Baby ka Husband
    Apr 8, 2012 - 10:48AM

    Just now on TV I saw the Prez and his entourage of 40 leave Gov. House for Lahore Airport en-route to Delhi. Can someone explain to me why the 40 ministers and private citizens are allowed to use Government Transport?? Will these people attend the luncheon given by PM Singh?? If not, can the SC take suo-moto to make everyone pay costs of this. Were these people invited by India?? I doubt it very much as Indians are not frivolous people. Now can someone explain how at a time when 135 Pakistani soldiers and civilians are buried under snow can our Prez and his ministers justify this trip?? They are least bothered about this tragedy. <strong Baby and I are really distressed and devastated. Recommend

  • Apr 8, 2012 - 10:59AM

    Pakistan prays (with a heavy heart) for its sons who are trapped by the avalanche.
    We hope they survive & are recovered safely. Our sincere best wishes for them and their families.

    Recommend

  • Mard-e-Haq
    Apr 8, 2012 - 11:00AM

    Most of the Northern Light Infantry soldiers are from Gilgit-Baltistan. This is a sad day. The army hierarchy is not doing enough to locate them. That’s my honest opinion. The president should have cancelled his trip to India and stayed to coordinate relief efforts, even as a figurehead.Recommend

  • Mohammad Ali Siddiqui
    Apr 8, 2012 - 11:17AM

    I pray to Al-Mighty Allah to help our Army Jawans and their families.

    May Al-Mighty Allah save all of them. Ameen

    Recommend

  • hyderabadi
    Apr 8, 2012 - 11:17AM

    This is a conspiracy by CIA/RAW/MOSSAD against the land of the pure.

    Recommend

  • Ilyas Hussain
    Apr 8, 2012 - 11:19AM

    6th NLI again. The same 6 NLI who got a Nishan-e-Haider in Kargil. The same 6 NLI who gave more then 100 lives in Kargil. The same 6 NLI who were at the forefront of South Waziristan operation. People of Gilgit-Baltistan have always sacrified for Pakistan. Now the question is whether the Government of Pakistan wants this area or not. If the current violence is not stopped and the state sponsored religious zealots are allowed to rule the roost, I doubt that how long the GB people will keep on giving and taking lives for Pakistan.

    Recommend

  • non conformist
    Apr 8, 2012 - 11:37AM

    It is so sad moment for all Pakistani’s. Above hundred soldiers means that the same number of families will be traumatized by this tragedy. May Allah keep all the trapped soldiers in his protection, and guard their lives.

    Recommend

  • Apr 8, 2012 - 11:41AM

    Let India have the glacier, serves very well for Pakistan. Firstly, It wouldn’t have to spend so much on a daily basis to maintain a military presence over there, which India does & will have to. Secondly, Pakistan can save its soldiers from any such future havoc.

    Recommend

  • bob
    Apr 8, 2012 - 12:04PM

    this is very very sad ….. This is the highest non conflict causality rate of Pak Army i guess… Lets pray that we can find survivors today… Pak Army is the greatest asset we have and they deserve our support…

    Recommend

  • raw is war
    Apr 8, 2012 - 12:27PM

    my condolences…

    Recommend

  • raw is war
    Apr 8, 2012 - 12:28PM

    hope they rescue maximum

    Recommend

  • International observer
    Apr 8, 2012 - 12:34PM

    Pakistan should unilaterally withdraw from Sianchin and preferably from AJK too. It can ill afford such tragedies. The money saved will help allivaite striking poverty and crippling economy, which has no power, gas.
    Zardari should announce this on his India visit. He is the most sensible leader in Pakistan, and one who knows the world moves around business interests and not stupid bravado of being a north korea type atomic power. World had no sympathy for that line of thinking.

    Recommend

  • bob
    Apr 8, 2012 - 12:35PM

    This is very very sad….Probably the highest non conflict causality rate of Pak army so far…I pray that we can find survivors…
    …….. BTW when some old, godforsaken so called National Leader dies the government announces a holiday and nation goes to mourning but i don’t see any reaction to this tragic incident…

    Recommend

  • Apr 8, 2012 - 1:03PM

    **Pakistan** prays *(with a heavy heart)* for its **sons** who are trapped by the avalanche.
    We hope they survive & are recovered safely. Our sincere best wishes for them and their families. :(Recommend

  • Aadi Virgo
    Apr 8, 2012 - 2:13PM

    I think both countries should withdraw forces, and sign a treaty. Both are spending heavy amounts on this dead zone.

    Recommend

  • hussain
    Apr 8, 2012 - 5:41PM

    135 funerals, may Allah bless the departed souls and grant strength to the bereaved families. I am sure majority will tend to agree with me that, laying life for a cause is a noble deed and is difficult to execute. It pinches the one who are in line to lay their lives when their cause is doubted and criticised as an institution.Therefore, my countrymen, please do think twice when you criticise your Soldiers in comparison with politicians.

    Recommend

  • Amina Bukhari
    Apr 8, 2012 - 8:17PM

    At least PK Army commander General Kayani visited the disaster site. Pakistan Commander in Chief and President Zardari decided to go drink tea in India during this tragedy for PR campaign. During floods he was in helicopter touring the French countryside wine country. This is disgrace to country. May Allah bless the soldiers and their families.

    Recommend

  • Popo
    Apr 9, 2012 - 12:04AM

    May Allah be with them!
    Both the countries swiftly need2 move back to positions of beyond 1984, especially india because it was the first one foolish enuf to poke its nose into siachen. Pakistan only retaliated. I am surprised why dsnt the indian public raise hue & cry over the massive monetary input into army in kashmir & siachen, to solve it once for all.
    STUPID EGO i guess!
    & P.S express tribune: please get ur news straight: siachen’s height is not more than 18,600ft max. & i seriously doubt the authenticity of the daily expenditure on siachen unless they have a burj ul arab built there for the men.

    Recommend

  • roohi
    Apr 10, 2012 - 1:23AM

    iam praying and keeping my fingers crossed

    Recommend

  • Azhar
    Apr 10, 2012 - 11:20AM

    I pray for our Sldrs. God bless him. Allah un ki family ko sabar atta farmaye.Recommend

  • Azhar
    Apr 10, 2012 - 11:22AM

    I pray for our Sldrs.Recommend

  • Tony Singh
    Apr 10, 2012 - 12:50PM

    @Popo:
    Its sad many soldiers lost life in avalanche but don’t turn this tragedy into blame game.
    Read Siachin’s history carefully before blaming India. Pakistan is the one which initiated Siachin’s conquest while ordering snow uniforms for its soldiers. Its just that Indians got the wiff of it and beat them to the post.

    Recommend

  • Apr 11, 2012 - 6:40AM

    we are pray for our soldires. and this is very very sad for us. i request to all pakistanes pleas pray for him.
    *
    strong text*

    Recommend

  • Apr 11, 2012 - 6:41AM

    this is very very sad. and i request to our all pakistanes pleas pray for him.

    Recommend

  • Shahid
    Apr 11, 2012 - 10:38AM

    Its Allah’s azaaab on us, Pakistan Army, ally of US Army in war against Islam, killing 100s of thousands of Muslims in Pakistan, Afghanistan, bombing madrassas in Fata, kidnapping innocent people and killing them, earth quake, floods, air crash, avalanches, inflation, law and order situation, its all Azzaaaaab from Allah nothing else with this country. May Allah guide us all to differentiate between enemy (USA) and friends (Muslims)

    Recommend

  • A J Khan
    Apr 11, 2012 - 12:00PM

    @Shahid:
    Shame on you and your thinking.

    Recommend

  • Sliaquat
    Apr 14, 2012 - 1:43PM

    My prayers for the sons of Pakistan, defintely the most bravest men who are defending our borders. India and Pakistan should resolve this matter soon enough because the life in Siachin is like walking on spikes. We, on the other side,have forgotten Allah SWT and are enoying ourselves and do what we please and do not even think for a second that these sons go through tremendous trial/hardship just to protect our borders. I salute those parents who allow their sons to join this field. I never ever gave a thought even for a second that these men have to go through extreme/extensive training and come across various hurdles/mishaps. After listening to the experiences of some army officers on GEO news channel, I started getting goose bumps and am so tearful each time I think about them and pray so much for them. May Allah SWT bless them and give patience in those family’s heart and do the best for the soldiers ameen. These soldiers would always be remembered in our history.

    Recommend

More in Pakistan