Siachen tragedy: With weather delays, hopes of successful rescue dim

Published: April 9, 2012

A view of snow-covered Siachen, the world’s highest battlefield. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: With each passing hour, hope dims for the 135 people trapped on Siachen, however, army rescue officials continue efforts the best the weather permits them.

On the 4th day of one of the most tragic incident of in the history of Pakistan army’s history, officials supervising the 52 hour rescue operation have started losing hope for the safe recovery of even a single soldier from the debris in Siachen’s Gayari sector.

An army officer while talking to The Express Tribune on condition of anonymity said that the absence of human tracing sensors have proved to be a hurdle in finding bodies and the delay in removing tons of snow, boulders and mud may even lead to humiliation of bodies as bulldozers equipped with blades cut through the snow and mud.

An update on the rescue operation released by ISPR said that 286 soldiers including 60 civilians along-with bulldozers and JCB heavy machinery (used for digging) have been employed at the site of the incident. They had so far cleared one platform measuring a 40 feet length, 30 feet wide and 10 feet deep. It further said that upon COAS General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani’s special directives effort were being enhanced in terms of manpower and technical capacity.

An ISPR official responding to a query said that five helicopters are taking part in the operation. While heavy machinery, additional manpower including technical experts from NDMA and SPD have been moved from Islamabad via C-130 air craft.

Pakistan Army on Monday also issued a few satellite images taken during the surveillance of Siachen’s Gayari Sector, where the avalanche has buried 135 Pak troops and civilian contractors under 80 feet of snow.  The images explained that the bad weather and sustained snowfall were adversely impacting rescue efforts.

An ISPR official further informed that due to bad weather, the helicopter service could not continue as per normal. Hence fresh reinforcement could not be transported to the sector to facilitate rescue efforts.

Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani reached Skardu on Sunday and supervised the rescue operations himself. He was accompanied by Corps Commander Lieutenant General Khalid Nawaz Khan.

Meanwhile, the Gilgit-Baltistan government had announced ‘day of mourning’ on Monday over the incident.

International Community’s Assistance

The governments of Switzerland and Germany have sent rescue experts to Pakistan to aid the soldiers trapped under an avalanche on Siachen glacier.

According to diplomatic sources, the Swiss government has sent a team of three avalanche experts and a sniffer dog that will be arriving here in Islamabad late on Monday night. The Swiss government has increased cooperation with the Pakistani security authorities after release of two Swiss hostages that were kept in custody of the Taliban for over eight months.

Another Source in the German embassy said the German government has offered help to Pakistan to dig out the stranded soldiers. “The message has been delivered through the diplomatic sources both in Berlin and Islamabad which was warmly welcomed” said an official of the German embassy in Islamabad.

A source close to the German embassy said the rescue team constituted of four experts but officials in the German embassy in Islamabad said the number of experts numbered six. “The team of experts has been finalised by officials in Berlin and six visas have been issued by the Pakistani embassy in Berlin” said an official of the German embassy.

Earlier the US administration offered assistance right after the tragedy and announced a team comprising of eight experts to Islamabad to provide technical assistance. Pakistan is right now in consultation with the team to find out what sort of strategy is needed to speed up the rescue operation.

Weather continues to hamper efforts

On Monday, weather conditions turned for the worse with the Meteorological Department predicting more snow for tomorrow. Rescue reinforcements were not able to travel to the sector too as helicopter service remains suspended.

The eight-member US rescue team remains stranded in Islamabad.

“We had planned to transport some heavy machinery from Rawalpindi to Siachen but could not do so because of bad weather,” the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

“We had arranged a C-130 cargo plane to lift some machinery up to the area, but bad weather did not allow the flight.”

A Pakistani security official involved in the work told AFP the US team was expected to reach the site later on Monday, adding that operations were likely to go on for some time.

“It was a massive snow slide and looks like the rescue work will take days,” the official said.

According to sources, civilians are also aiding the rescue efforts of the armed forces.

More than 80% of the trapped troops of the 6 Northern Light Infantry Battalion belong to various areas of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) itself.

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Reader Comments (47)

  • True Muslim Paki
    Apr 9, 2012 - 4:07PM

    From my own sources, the total number of soldiers lost is more than 400. I don`t understand why the number is being kept a secret. A Pakistani Batallion on a average contains 700 men in 4 companies. Compensation for the families of the shaheed must be delivered promptly with jobs for a member of family who lost their loved ones. Why is Kayani not announcing this?

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  • Zulfiqar
    Apr 9, 2012 - 4:13PM

    Sad :(

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  • Madiha R.
    Apr 9, 2012 - 4:33PM
  • PTI VOTER
    Apr 9, 2012 - 4:35PM

    May God help those who are making the rescue efforts.

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  • THE
    Apr 9, 2012 - 5:04PM

    This is a tragedy on a epic scale and is really sad. I have been thinking about these brave jawans and their families since I read the news about them. May Allah bless them and their families.
    The chances of finding someone alive are very remote, we would be lucky if they can even recover the bodies in 80ft of ice with the weather getting worse.

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  • Ich Dien
    Apr 9, 2012 - 5:12PM

    @True Muslim Paki:
    My dear without doubting your info, just like to add that this was the Battalion HQ and normally only the HQ company (which is smaller in number to other 3 coys of the Bn) along with some support personnel is located at the HQ whereas the remaining 4 companies are deployed elsewhere. The Bn HQ is normally the rear most location for that Bn. ISPR has given out names along with PA numbers for the officers as well, a normal infantry Bn is suppose to have more than 3 officers as on the list, for example atleast 3 company commanders (Majors or Captains) One Adjudent (Captain/Lt) company officers etc. As per my info an infantry Bn has around 16-18 officers, so if as you are saying army is hiding the numbers of Jawans its not that easy to hide the number of officers specially now that its been informed that the unit concerned is 6 NLI Regiment. Secondly in army you cant just hire heirs to the shaheeds, yes you do give them preference but if one is not medically fit or upto the required criteria you cant induct them. As for compensation Army has its own standards of taking care of its ppl, with things such as family pensions, medical coverage, education of children etc.

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  • zahidullah
    Apr 9, 2012 - 5:13PM

    @TrueMuslimPaki :For God sake dont spread rumors if u dont know the truth no bn hq contains more than 150 troops they r deplyed on different locations they are nt in bn hq…so jst pray for their souls and dnt misguide ppl at least u r an educated dont behave like our illitereate media

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  • true soldier
    Apr 9, 2012 - 5:27PM

    @True Muslim Paki: theres no fun in hiding the news of number of soldiers.it is about 135 soldiers and rest of 700 are on locations, more dangerous than these, at about 6-7 days walk in snow, avalanches and crevasses.so ur source is badly mistaken when it comes to the secrets and u dont worry about the family members of the deceased. army is best when it comes to taking care of the family of shuhada…u might have been away from media for quiet some time..Recommend

  • Babloo
    Apr 9, 2012 - 5:34PM

    American rescue team has arrived. How about rescue team from ‘higher than the himalayas and deeper than the Indian ocean all-weather, never-dying, multi-dimensional friend’ next door ?

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  • Owais
    Apr 9, 2012 - 5:39PM

    Media channels covered the presidents visit to india when it wasnt even an official visit. What about the brave soliders trapped under the snow?? When the chile miners were trapped for weeks the chilean media was covering it 24/7 The entire cabient was there. when the miners were trapped in wales (uk) there media showed great service to there sons!! The media channels in pakistan is nowhere to b seen. Really sad!!

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  • Kaleem
    Apr 9, 2012 - 5:44PM

    @Babloo: That higher than himalayas and deeper than ocean friendship has no oxygen

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  • Sher Khan
    Apr 9, 2012 - 5:46PM

    Time to look to the One who has created us all and seek answers as to why this happened. Its very clear, we belong to ALlah and to him shall we return. He runs this world in the best possible way he does. Its high time that pakistan should learn to buy some heavy helicopters which can lift heavy equipment to these places. ALong with that, they need to train soldiers in such eventualities. THere should be equipment, oxygen masks to dig out incase there are land slides. but to my understanding, the sheer force sof ice wouldve gone through the barracks nad wouldve have killed all the soldiers in matter of minutes… If these defenders have alerayd gone to Allah, then lets all pray that Allah you the Lord have taken them swiftly without any pain as they live and die by your name.

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  • THE
    Apr 9, 2012 - 5:48PM

    @Owais: You are probably expecting too much from our media! They are a bunch of pathetic loosers who have nothing better then to have some politicians on tv throwing mud and spewing hate all the time.
    Just pray for the jawans and their families, they need it at this time. Recommend

  • G.A.
    Apr 9, 2012 - 6:21PM

    Everything will be fine soon, InshAllah!

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  • nirmal maunder
    Apr 9, 2012 - 6:25PM

    No body is suggesting that Siachin glacier should be demilitarized.No use keeping a batallion there at high
    cost & under such danger

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  • Sam
    Apr 9, 2012 - 6:47PM

    @True Muslim Paki:

    FOR GODS SAKE – stop politicising a national tragedy!!!

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  • Cautious
    Apr 9, 2012 - 7:04PM

    After all the bad mouthing and anti USA blather – when your in need who is the first nation that always extends a helping hand to Pakistan?

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  • Peshawar
    Apr 9, 2012 - 7:54PM

    @True Muslim Paki, please stop spreading disinformation. This was the Battalion HQ of a deployed unit, meaning most of its strength is scattered all over the place. If you look at pictures of the place in question there is no way it can house 400 troops.

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  • Malik 1
    Apr 9, 2012 - 7:55PM

    As General Kaynani said this natural disaster will not lower our moral.Recommend

  • reasonable
    Apr 9, 2012 - 8:05PM

    @Owais:
    Media coverage is difficult if not impossible, otherwise rescue would not have taken so much time. Remember you talking about siachen. even for the troops to reach there is a big thing.

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  • NuPak
    Apr 9, 2012 - 8:37PM

    Many people here have little grasp of the situation. It's easy to repair a satellite or bring one back from space than get to these mountain tops, climbing in very poor visibility on ice that is sharp & deep every few feet like walking on tips of huge hair brush, with a pace of tortoise against winds howling at hurricane speed that has a temperature of -70C(lower than north pole) and seventy time coolers than your deep freezer. Even the most advanced and fully equipped countries don't fathom here.
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  • abbasi
    Apr 9, 2012 - 9:05PM

    @True Muslim Paki:
    boy i m from Pak army… and i have served in Siachin for 1 year… in Gayari there are always 100 – 140 soldiers and nothing more then this. i have seen the place… and if u r worried about compensation.. ? my bro need not to worry.. my battalion had 18 shaheed and every family was paid the compensation within 2 months and this system works like this in army…. Kyani has nothng to announce for this.. coz this is the right of the families and they will get it even Kayani announce it or not..

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  • V K Bajaj (Delhi)
    Apr 9, 2012 - 9:12PM

    Sorrowful and irrecoverable loss. Sincere feelings for the respective families.

    But this tragedy should pave way for

    a) Both the countries to demilitarized at least such areas. Very strange as military is being stationed at -70C. Both the countries are spending too much only to remain ready for WAR but not for WAR. Too many Bombs to destroy earth many times.

    b) Scientists now should start developing instruments and equipments to save human life even at -100C.

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  • Apr 9, 2012 - 9:15PM

    this camp was of a batalion headquarter,which is supposed to have a maximum of 55 persons.the other 100 are normaly the people.who are in rotation (coming in or going on leave).
    all other persons are deployed on numerous basis and posts along the border.
    There is no point keeping the entire battalion in a real base.
    Hassan Zia
    Pakistan Army

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  • MBN
    Apr 9, 2012 - 9:39PM

    @True Muslim Paki:
    Their bodies haven’t been found. Lets keep SOME hope. If they were in permanent structures with supplies MAYBE some have survived, altho it seems unlikely. Its like declaring a coma patient dead. And lets not get into conspiracy theories please.

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  • True Muslim Paki
    Apr 9, 2012 - 9:47PM

    @hassan zia. Thank you for the info! It was more with the concern of soldiers & their families that I had posted & not for disinformation. Am neither from the Army or have anyone from my immediate family. One of my friends uncle is a major & head informed us that the numbers are much higher!
    Anyway, thanks for clarifying. May Allah, the merciful show some mercy & forgive our misdeeds. We bow to him & beg for his kindness.

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  • A. Khan
    Apr 9, 2012 - 9:47PM

    Questions have to be asked about selection of this location for battalion headquarters. Why wasn’t a proper risk assessment done ?

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  • Mubashir
    Apr 9, 2012 - 9:56PM

    Time for both countries to grow up and show maturity.

    Read our lips: WITHDRAW

    Why should we compete in insane projects and sacrifice our Jawans?

    Enough is enough.

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  • imdad
    Apr 9, 2012 - 11:14PM

    we all pakistanies are with the grief families and wil always pray for the yung soldiers who got stuck under heavy glaciers.oh my dear God help us……!

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  • Parvez
    Apr 9, 2012 - 11:33PM

    On both sides, more soldiers die due to weather than by fighting each other. The All Mighty is clearly saying something and both sides are clearly not listening.

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  • Brian McDonald
    Apr 10, 2012 - 12:11AM

    I am very sorry to hear about the avalanche that has buried more than 135 people. I hope that survivors can be found. I am glad the U.S has sent help to find and possibly rescue survivors. I pray for those families who may have lost their sons, fathers and uncles to this disaster. Good luck to all and let us hope survivors are found.

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  • waja
    Apr 10, 2012 - 12:55AM

    We pray to Almighty Allah for the lives of our brave troops.

    Big Question Mark for Defense experts. Our brave soldiers are there in Siachen since 1984. After a toll of 135 precious lives and experience of 27 years, our army has decided to purchase rescue equipment for snow melting from western countries. Now we are waiting for American, German and Swiss experts to save our soldiers. ??????????Recommend

  • Mohammad Ali Siddiqui
    Apr 10, 2012 - 12:58AM

    Since I have heard the bad news, I have not been able to sleep properly and during the time I am awaken, I keep on praying for my brother soldiers who were buried alive few days back.

    I am optimistic that our brothers soldiers who are part of the rescue team will be able to find the buried soldiers as soon as whether will permit them.

    Had it been not a bad weather, our brother soldiers by now would have been able to find their colleagues.

    May Al-Mighty Allah help us all. Ameen.

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  • Apr 10, 2012 - 2:02AM

    i am very sorry about the sad incident.
    but however questions should be asked why they didnt take care of excess snow before hand. usually elsewhere they continuously monitor the snow and with controlled explosions they get rid of any dangerous snow builtup.
    i know it sounds very insensitive at this moment but if you want to prevent any such events further then these questions should be answered now.

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  • Ali
    Apr 10, 2012 - 2:09AM

    This is no time for conspiracy theories. It is a time for prayer and remembrance. Lets hope for a miracle and remember that these brave men lost their lives while defending our country. We need to pray for the departed souls and the families that they have left behind and also for those who are working day and night in the harshest of conditions to find any signs of life. May Allah keep them safe as well.

    Also we need to keep reminding our selves, every time we blame the army for the poor condition of the country, that these are the same very men who leave their families behind and bear such inhumane conditions so that ordinary(read:people like ‘true muslim paki’) citizens of this glorious nation can sleep soundly at night in the comfort of their homes.

    As a Pakistani(not paki) I sincerely pray to the Almighty to rest the souls of the martyred in peace and to give the families of those involved in this disaster some peace.

    Pakistan Paindabad, Pakistan Army Zindabad!

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  • true_blue_pakistani
    Apr 10, 2012 - 2:51AM

    @ abbasi
    As per my source there were two hundred irregulars (Mujahideens). Why nobody counting them?

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  • Truthbetold
    Apr 10, 2012 - 3:03AM

    @True Muslim Paki:

    “From my own sources, the total number of soldiers lost is more than 400. I don`t understand why the number is being kept a secret. A Pakistani Batallion on a average contains 700 men in 4 companies. Compensation for the families of the shaheed must be delivered promptly with jobs for a member of family who lost their loved ones. Why is Kayani not announcing this? “

    The same thing happened in the Kargil war. While Nawaz Sharif said 3000 NLI soldiers were killed, the army kept the number at a few hundreds. The families of the Kargil martyrs were never compensated either. Worst, the army did not accept that they were Pakistani soldiers and refused to accept their bodies.

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  • Heraa
    Apr 10, 2012 - 3:36AM

    My heart is bleeding right now, how can people be so calm after this, why didnt our government ask for help on the same day when this incident took place?, why is everyone coming after 4 days to help?
    This is disastrous and what is our president doing? taking trips to India?
    How can a person be so inhumane, this is THE limit.
    Nobody i mean NOBODY can imagine the amount of pain the families must be going through of those Jawans, specially after seeing such reaction by everyone.
    I was appalled to see the news how everyone was just giving a speech about how sad they are by this but nobody said a single word about rescuing them.
    Pakistaniat is dead in everyone. When God forbid this freedom and country will be snatched from us and when we will get treated like Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and now Syria. Then only our people will realize how stupid they were by staying quite and tolerating this cruel, cold hearted government, I mean seriously if this happened with the people of his own family he would’ve taken immediate action

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  • afsheen
    Apr 10, 2012 - 3:53AM

    We should demilitarized at least this region, doesn’t make sense to spend much and let the humans at risk just because of Egoism. Sounds Insane!

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  • Disco
    Apr 10, 2012 - 4:20AM

    Pakistani Army has always been helping mountaineers from Scandinavian and North American countries for decades in our Northern Regions. Now when the Army needs help, one would expect the least these countries can do is send some experts and equipment.

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  • ifrah
    Apr 10, 2012 - 4:36PM

    may allah help them in ths tragedy..we are realy shocked abt ths aciident

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  • ifrah
    Apr 10, 2012 - 4:40PM

    may allah help them in ths tragedy..we are realy shocked abt ths aciident
    please stop politics on ths incidnt…help them before they all martyed.

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  • Shagufta
    Apr 11, 2012 - 11:04AM

    My heart is really sinking and just praying,
    “Ya Allah Pak please help the rescuers, made favorable weather for them and please show a miracle for any sign of life” .amin sum amin

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  • Apr 11, 2012 - 10:05PM

    MAY GOD bless u all in these harder moments the nation is sad n media is in deeppain
    u are sons.brothers .n fathers of nations we dont want u to see in any pain

    you are sybol of bravness

    saluit to all of you with deep love of us

    AFTAB KHANRecommend

  • Hamid Khan
    Apr 12, 2012 - 9:12AM

    The innocent soldiers and officers are at the mercy of our non sense and non serious politicians who have not decided the siachen issue yet. Many soldiers and officers are loosing their lives at different unnecessary stations resulting a huge pecuniary as well as human loss. No condolence towards the incident has been extended by the politicians/political parties for the sake of whom our soldiers are offering their precious lives throughout the country. Its very sad; its very bad but they are busy just in the shameful activities. Anyhow, we all as a nation, have to pray for the brave soldiers and officers, fighting for their survival underground and we must have to encourage their families too.(O ALLAH THE ALMIGHTY, please show your miracle by protecting all-inclusive lives, buried in the snow and do not leave them helpless and hopeless: Aameen)

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  • muhammad zahir
    Apr 13, 2012 - 10:35PM

    ALLAH blessed our brave soldiers with HIS blessings and give courage to the families of the soldiers which are the victoms of this incident…..i request the news chanels to update every single update are efforts made by our army there.

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  • fatima zahid
    May 7, 2012 - 9:44AM

    lets join our hands to pray for our brave,ever ready,determined and faithful soldiers whose condition is still unknown at gyarri sector in siachen .they are the sons of great mothers,brothers of sweet sisters ,very docile fathers of innocent children and husbands of courageous wives.may allah almighty help them to make thier sacred purpose and promise come true ameen

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