Siachen tragedy: Amidst fading hopes, rescuers search for survivors

Published: April 9, 2012

Gen Kayani visits the site of the avalanche with other military officials. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: 

With no sign of survivors nearly 36 hours after an avalanche smashed into a Pakistan Army camp near the Siachen Glacier, the military hoped for a ‘miracle’ on Sunday as rescuers searched for the 124 soldiers and 11 civilians buried beneath a blanket of snow.

Chief of Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani visited the Giari area where the avalanche struck on Saturday to supervise the rescue operation launched by the army’s Engineering Corps to recover the victims, who belong to the 6 Northern Light Infantry Battalion.

“The avalanche of such a magnitude was unprecedented in the last 20 years of this Battalion Headquarters’ existence at Giari,” said Gen Kayani.

“I have directed the concerned departments of Pakistan Army to immediately mobilise all available resources with the assistance of Pakistan Air Force to carry out a full-scale rescue operation.”

According to the army, 240 troops and civilians participated in the rescue operation on Sunday with the aid of sniffer dogs and heavy machinery, some of which was flown in on military aircraft.

Rescuers dug through snow, boulders and slush in a desperate search for the 135 people buried under the snow more than 1,000 metres wide and 25 metres high – as hopes faded of finding any survivors.

“Let’s hope for a miracle,” a military official, who asked to remain anonymous, told Reuters. Another military official, also speaking off the record, said that there were reports that some of the trapped soldiers are still alive.

However, mountaineering expert Colonel Sher Khan disagreed.  “There is no hope, there is no chance at all,” he told AFP.

“You can survive only in the first 5-10 minutes,” he said. “The casualties in avalanches occur due to pressure of heavy weight, extreme cold and lack of oxygen.”

Apart from bulldozers and excavators, chemicals were being used to melt the ice. But due to harsh weather and great height, the rescue work is slow. The victims are trapped in one of the most unforgiving environments on the earth, at an altitude of 15,000 feet in the Karakoram mountain range.

Gen Kayani appreciated the morale and efforts of the troops who were braving harsh weather conditions and inhospitable terrain and directed the commanders to leave ‘no stone unturned’ to reach out to the trapped troops.

He said that the calamity, in no way, should affect the morale of the troops defending their homeland at the world’s highest battlefield.

Reactions

An eight-member team of US experts, meanwhile, arrived in Rawalpindi on Sunday to provide technical assistance in the rescue operation.

According to a military statement, discussion will be held with the US team to find out the possibility and nature of assistance required to expedite the rescue operation. Offer of technical assistance from other friendly countries is also being considered.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also offered to provide assistance to Pakistan, The Hindustan Times reported. Singh made the offer during his meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari.

In response, Zardari appreciated India’s offer and said he would seek assistance if needed, the report added.

(WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM AFP AND REUTERS)

Published in The Express Tribune, April 9th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (52)

  • Pakistani Agnostic
    Apr 9, 2012 - 6:52AM

    Thank You United States and India from the deepest depth of my heart. Any help is greatly appreciated. Wish we were allies with Israel who is one of the most technologically advanced country in close proximity of Pakistan.

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  • Max
    Apr 9, 2012 - 7:04AM

    My thoughts are with them but it is more than forty hours now. My heart goes to their families and the loved ones.

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  • raw is war
    Apr 9, 2012 - 7:10AM

    kayani could find time from politics?

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  • jagjit sidhoo
    Apr 9, 2012 - 7:11AM

    Time seems to have run out but miracles do happen lets pray for them.

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  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Apr 9, 2012 - 7:19AM

    Hope should not fade away. There are documentaries based on true stories that people survived after they were buried in snow for many days. Three factors are most important and those are proper gear, not seriously injured and have access to oxygen. Infact sorrounding snow help them and work in their favour like Igloo. We must keep on trying to find them and keep praying for these precious lives.

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  • Senman
    Apr 9, 2012 - 7:32AM

    A Picture defines what word cannot, the above picture shows the Photo-op instead genuine concern in searching for the soldiers tells allRecommend

  • Imran
    Apr 9, 2012 - 7:32AM

    Propaganda picture for the masses. This does not seem like Siachen… Is it?

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  • Jibran
    Apr 9, 2012 - 7:35AM

    “The avalanche of such a magnitude was unprecedented in the last 20 years of this Battalion Headquarters’ existence at Giari,” Kayani.

    It is always unprecedented to be offered as an excuse. What is the job of a General? To prepare for the worst… right?

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  • Jibran
    Apr 9, 2012 - 7:38AM

    “I have directed the concerned departments of Pakistan Army to immediately mobilise all available resources.” – Kiyani

    Can you be more specific? What resources do you have? What is current course of action? If you have not directed the concerned departments of the Army, would they have not acted? If not then there is something seriously wrong with the organizational capabilities and the readiness of the Army.

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  • Raj
    Apr 9, 2012 - 8:05AM

    Now the mission should be RECOVERY as RESCUE is a remote possibility. These soldiers are SHAHEED and SHAHEEDS do not die. I am an Indian and belong to an Army family and I can appreciate the responsibilities of these BRAVE MEN.

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  • Mahesh Patil
    Apr 9, 2012 - 8:23AM

    @Pakistani Agnostic:
    It is nice of you to reciprocate good gesture.Where are Hafiz Sayeed and Deefa a Pakistan cronies to lambaste USA?

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  • Sahibzada Shabir
    Apr 9, 2012 - 8:51AM

    Gen Kiyani is there to give moral support but where is the President

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  • B
    Apr 9, 2012 - 9:08AM

    A General has to visit his troops when there is a disaster. It’s not about politics. Unlike our President & PM who never go to disaster zones, Kiyani always does. He is a good commander to his troops.

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  • syed baqar ahsan
    Apr 9, 2012 - 9:10AM

    I hope Americans have not send few CIA agents in this team as well, like always, as they did in a earth quake mission few years back(double gaming is art of war with the USA to his “friends”) I think Russian should be having best know how on sown search.

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  • Citizen
    Apr 9, 2012 - 9:15AM

    Very tragic indeed . I wish for a miracle .

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  • optimistic
    Apr 9, 2012 - 9:21AM

    They are our rakhwalas, we should all pray and hope for their safety and a miracle. Inshallah, there must be some silver lining Allah(SWT) is The Merciful.

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  • Ahmad
    Apr 9, 2012 - 9:22AM

    Pratically speaking the hopes are really fading now. But Allah can do miracles and thats what i am hoping for. It surely is a national tragedy and there should be a day of mourning and this should be termed as a national tragedy announced. If this can be done for every tom, dick and harry we should definetly do this for the loss of valuable lives in this case.

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  • Ibrar khan
    Apr 9, 2012 - 9:30AM

    Why are we seeking help from USA? Where is the Ghairat Brigade? Will their honour allow them that their brethren be saved by an infidel nation? It’s high time we realised that our real friend is the US that helps us in every tragedy, be that the debilitating earthquake of 2005 or the current disaster. Thank You United States from the core of my heart.

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  • MarkH
    Apr 9, 2012 - 9:40AM

    It’s much better to try even against bad odds in such situations. The alternative is a lot of “would have, could have, should have” that can haunt a person for a lifetime. Multiply it by 100 for the family members.

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  • Mustafa Kamal
    Apr 9, 2012 - 9:47AM

    Hope they are secure.Meanwhile Thanks India and USA for providing their assistance.

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  • Dee Cee
    Apr 9, 2012 - 9:50AM

    ET should set up a corpus and start collecting funds for the families of the victims. ET’s patriotism is questioned a lot. High time ET does something about it.

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  • Malik Tariq
    Apr 9, 2012 - 9:54AM

    This is a national tragedy. Over 135 valiant sons of Pakistan are feared missing with bleak chances of survival. Yet our politicians were busy even yesterday addressing political rallies and of all the people, even the President thought it proper to go on yet another private visit, which should have been delayed.

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  • Mohammad Ali Siddiqui
    Apr 9, 2012 - 10:01AM

    Miracles happens. One should not lose hope.

    If Al-Mighty Allah want some one among the group to remain alive, he will still be alive.

    When Al-Mighty Allah can provide food to fishes at the bed of the sea, Al-Mighty Allah can also save as many soldiers as desired, and if Al-Mighty Allah wanted to call every one back at the same time, they would have already met with their Creator.

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  • syed baqar ahsan
    Apr 9, 2012 - 10:03AM

    Mass scale land sliding resulted in making of Atta abad lake sinking miles of KKH may be due to shattering affects created by high attitude bombing and concentration of rays at glacier.Aim to disturb china’s access and di moralize Pak ARMY. This is high tech art of war think over it.

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  • Bravo
    Apr 9, 2012 - 10:03AM

    Tribute to 6th Northern Light Infantry Battalion who lost there lives at Siachen due to avalanche

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  • Nexus
    Apr 9, 2012 - 10:17AM

    Very sad. May Allah help them. I cannot imagine how worried their families must be!

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  • Maher
    Apr 9, 2012 - 10:28AM

    @ Sahibzada Shabir.. Our SO CALLED PRESIDENT is enjoying in India & now in China…

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  • Anisa Malik
    Apr 9, 2012 - 10:32AM

    God Bless all our brave soldiers and their families.

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  • syed Imran
    Apr 9, 2012 - 10:43AM

    Cynical comments by readers is highly condemnable. Seems these people have no morals, they can make a joke out of a tragedy of this proportion. Shame on you all cynics

    May Allah the Almighty bless all the victims and their families with the best of both worlds-Ameen

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  • ashok
    Apr 9, 2012 - 10:45AM

    Pakistanis love to hate USA as long as the giant ATM and toy store is kept open by uncle Sam.

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  • Anisa Malik
    Apr 9, 2012 - 10:59AM

    God bless our brave soldiers and their families.

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  • Angry
    Apr 9, 2012 - 11:08AM

    Time to come down.

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  • Apr 9, 2012 - 11:21AM

    No country in the world has technology or infrastructure to dig 25 meters in 1000 sq mtrs snow with -75 deg C hostile environment even to recover dead bodies. As humans, we can only hope and weep. This is not the time to talk politics and play blame games.

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  • Megatron
    Apr 9, 2012 - 11:25AM

    Hope they are alive….We must stop killing our own citizens via drones or operations on instructions of America otherwise these type of calamities will happen

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  • striver of progress in pk
    Apr 9, 2012 - 11:31AM

    May Almighty Allah keep them in His custody and give them a happy life.

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  • Imran
    Apr 9, 2012 - 11:36AM

    Pls try to expedite this matter so as much as lives could be saved. May God bless U (rescue team) and soldiers who are still trap.

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  • Curious
    Apr 9, 2012 - 11:59AM

    Makes me wonder if it is sheer bad luck or is it the corrupt generals involved in construction of sub-standard bases without any life saving equipment.

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  • Sohail
    Apr 9, 2012 - 12:11PM

    Dudes, sorry about the tragedy but can you please shape up and get your tummies in!

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  • Diggvijay Singh
    Apr 9, 2012 - 12:28PM

    They were brave souls who sacrificed their youthful lives for their nation. May the Lord provide protection to their grieving families and Heavenly bliss unto the souls of the dead.
    At this moment we must also remind ourselves of the Siachen issue which causes so many innocent soldiers to die. As a humanist secular Indian I feel for the Pakistani soldiers who have to put up with such hardship in the bitter cold climate of the Himalayan range. Our illustrious PM Dr. Shri Manmohan Singh has put the Siachen issue among the list of high-priority items to be resolved between India and Pakistan during the dialogue process. It comes just next to the problem of cross border terrorism.

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  • Raza Abbas
    Apr 9, 2012 - 12:45PM

    May Allah bless these valiant sons of soil. It’s about time our Media starts focusing attention on this issue as well as the ongoing Gilgit-Baltistan crisis. Many of the soldiers buried under the 80 ft snow belong to this area which is currently under curfew. The families of these soldiers are in also in great pain.

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  • Faraz
    Apr 9, 2012 - 12:46PM

    @syed baqar ahsan:
    Landslides are a natural phenomenon. We cannot thank our brave men enough. But please keep our great conspiracy theories aside for now and pray for them.

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  • sameer
    Apr 9, 2012 - 12:54PM

    inna nillahe wa inna illaaehi rajaoun!!

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  • Amanat Ali
    Apr 9, 2012 - 12:55PM

    I think our president’s next call will be to USA for “Imdad” on this tragedy

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  • Defence councils
    Apr 9, 2012 - 1:23PM

    how come, the D council of Hafeez Saeed and co. have not gone to Sianchin to “help” the Army? seems all they can do is do “jihad” against the world.

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  • bilal irfan
    Apr 9, 2012 - 1:24PM

    i think our president visit to India is more important than this disaster.

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  • Apr 9, 2012 - 1:34PM

    @Imran:
    in fact u r propagating

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  • FAZ
    Apr 9, 2012 - 2:30PM

    Its indeed a brave job. You risk your life but in the end if you surrvive and stars grow on your shoulders you start reaping the crop. You become the highest consumer of our taxes..
    And the best of all, you have a chance to become the president of the country. Even if you end up with nothing you still owe a large plot in some defence scheme and can have shares in some bank, education institution, cement, fertilizer or FMCG company. Pakistan becomes the best place for you to live. Its worth risk it…
    Pakistan Army Zindabad!!

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  • butt jee
    Apr 9, 2012 - 3:23PM

    @Jibran:
    your remarks are based on your ignorance about the functioning of military organizations. More over we should stop being evil minded. There is a natural disaster and instead of wishing well for the safe recovery of the unfortunate men we are concentrating on aimless criticism. Natural disasters are usually unpredictable and if these are of this magnitude then even the US will not be able to do much about it within the short time available for saving the lives of the people buried under the snow.

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  • Someone
    Apr 10, 2012 - 5:48AM

    Everyone seems to be making an issue out of US or Indian assistance. For the record, India has only offered assistance, which has not yet been used, and even if they did, it would not yeild much results as we can already see from the current status of the success of the rescue operation by the Pak Armed Forces despite all the technology involved.

    And as for US…..c’mon, 8 experts…any country would ask for a team of that size, perhaps even larger…big deal! The actual work is being done by our own forces, time for “liberals” to stop finding every opportunity to lament about this country

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  • jagjit sidhoo
    Apr 10, 2012 - 7:21AM

    @Someone: Gam mein shamil hona insaniyat hai.

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  • ARBAB BHELLAR
    Apr 10, 2012 - 11:46AM

    Start rescue work according your resources, without any dely, which will reduce the magnitude and time of the hardest problem. Start work on all direction with your resources inshallah you will be succes.

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  • Nusrat Ullah
    Apr 20, 2012 - 10:53AM

    we should pray for these brave men

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