ISLAMABAD: 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 another 24 hours later.
Around 200 military personnel and 100 civilians are taking part in the rescue operation. Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is also present at the site.
Apart from bulldozers and excavators, chemicals are used to melt the ice. Due to harsh weather and great height, the rescue work is slow.
According to an official, the chances of survival decrease with every passing day. “If the avalanche broke into the military barracks, then the survival chances are very low; if not, then we can hope they may be safe,” he said.
The avalanche engulfed Pakistan army 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.
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.