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.