Siachen tragedy — Day 4 : Rescuers search desperately as weather turns foul

Published: April 11, 2012

Foreign experts unable to reach site; military releases updated list of 138 buried. PHOTO: ISPR

ISLAMABAD: 

In a race against time and nature, rescuers continued to desperately search for survivors of an avalanche, with flagging hopes as the rescue operation at Giari entered its fourth day on Tuesday. 

Unfavourable weather conditions continued to prevent American, German and Swiss rescue teams, and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, from reaching the rescue site where a wall of snow crashed into a Pakistan Army camp near the Siachen Glacier on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the military released an updated list of the victims which now stands at 138 — of which 127 were soldiers of the 6 Northern Light Infantry Battalion and 11 civilian employees including waiters, barbers and a tailor.

After a search of almost 72 hours, officials acknowledged that bad weather coupled with the inhospitable terrain continued to hamper the progress of finding any survivors.

“It may take days … probably weeks when rescuers reach the Giari camp,” said a military official.

The official added that the inclement weather had prevented foreign experts, including an-eight member US team, to reach the site in order to assist the Pakistani rescuers.

According to the military’s media cell, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), rescue efforts continued despite weather hazards. A total of 452 persons, including 69 civilians, are employed for relief efforts along with two dozers, two earth movers, three excavators and two dumpers, a military statement revealed.

The military has also identified five points on the site where rescue work is in progress. Two points are being dug with equipment while three points are being dug manually.

The ISPR said foreign rescue teams – including six Germans and three from Switzerland – arrived in Pakistan and were waiting for weather clearance to proceed to Giari via Skardu. A seven-member military rescue team is using life-detection kit and thermal imaging camera during the rescue operation, the release added.

At least 40 feet of snow has been removed so far with the help of heavy machinery.

Emotional trauma

A military official at Giari told The Express Tribune that as hopes of recovering survivors fade, the tragedy has taken an emotional toll on the soldiers deployed for rescue efforts at the site.

Many of the posted soldiers are not willing to leave their positions despite orders to take rest — and insist on continuing the rescue efforts.

HRCP concerned

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) expressed sorrow at the tragic incident, in a statement released on Tuesday.

Stressing on the need for measures to avoid any such untoward incident in future, the HRCP said that the current situation demanded an inquiry into ‘conditions in which soldiers are stationed’ at the glacier. The commission also said there was a need to reflect on the safety and protection offered to the soldiers posted on the glacier in light of ‘harsh climate’ and ‘fickle nature of the terrain’.

Demilitarisation of Siachen

The tragedy has renewed calls for demilitarisation of what is known as the ‘world’s highest battlefield’, where more soldiers from both Pakistan and India have died because of natural calamities than the combat.

Legal and environmental experts, journalists and think-tanks gathered on Tuesday to push for a quick solution of the protracted conflict zone.

Speakers at the round-table discussion, organised by the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS), suggested that the region should be declared as a ‘Peace Park’. The inhospitable 50 miles of glacier has killed over 5,000 Indian and 3,000 Pakistani soldiers between April 1984 and April 2012.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 11th, 2012.

Correction: In an earlier version of the story, one of the foreign rescue teams was incorrectly mentioned as ‘Swedish’ instead of ‘Swiss’. The correction has been made.

Reader Comments (13)

  • M.S
    Apr 11, 2012 - 9:39AM

    Our prayers & thoughts are with the brave Soldiers who are always ready to sacrifice their lives for the greater good of our motherland.

    My brave Soldiers, I salute your bravery & cause & may ALMIGHTY ALLAH bless you with life & give strength to the families in this tough time!

    Recommend

  • true_blue_pakistani
    Apr 11, 2012 - 10:21AM

    Don’t trust what ISPR says. They fooling the whole country all the time.
    Mujahideens trapped with soldiers?

    Recommend

  • Billoo Bhaya
    Apr 11, 2012 - 10:41AM

    Is this the capability of a country that declares itself to be a nuclear power?? Can’t get enough people on to the site to dig??? That’s all it is required, to dig. Foreign experts are going to do nothing more. THEY WILL ALSO SAY DIG. What a sorry state of affairs.

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  • Hasan Kazmi
    Apr 11, 2012 - 12:44PM

    we are deeply saddened by the incident. May GOD give courage to bear the loss and capacity to understand the worth of what we have.

    Recommend

  • amal anjum
    Apr 11, 2012 - 12:52PM

    Our prayers are with the brave Soldiers who are always ready to sacrifice their lives for the greater good of our Pakistan..
    stay blessed

    Recommend

  • Abbas
    Apr 11, 2012 - 1:03PM

    Just for the correction; it is Swiss rescue teams who arrived with Germans, not Swedish. May Allah SWT have mercy on all the soldiers and their families Ameen.

    Recommend

  • Amer Nawaz
    Apr 11, 2012 - 2:05PM

    we r heartly praying for our beloved army jawans, becoz of whom we sleep peacfully,Ya Allah hm sb par apna khas karram frma aameen

    Recommend

  • Apr 11, 2012 - 4:30PM

    Human Rights Commission? Is there such commission in Pakistan. Who suddenly woken up them? Where they will hide normally?

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  • Kanwal
    Apr 11, 2012 - 6:10PM

    What i do not understand is, why it is taking so long to dig 70 feet deep into the area? if they have so many rescue workiers there, there was definitely a chance of finding survivors? and even if you come across the dead bodies during digging, that would be clue to find anybody alive? And why not speed up digging by mere hands if there are this number of rescue workers there? There should be detailed a press conference and the situation should be cleared on the nation.

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  • rizwan
    Apr 11, 2012 - 11:46PM

    i pray from bottom of my heart that all ranks should survive and join their families at their homes since they have been feeling the real pain.
    God bless them
    all prays for rescue teams for their tremendous efforts
    appeal to nation to send gifts to gyari sector to show soldarity

    Recommend

  • Apr 11, 2012 - 11:49PM

    salam to our brave soldiers
    u all wil survive
    ur families will see u soon inshallah

    Recommend

  • Maqsood
    Apr 12, 2012 - 1:10AM

    Inshallah! Almighty Allah will help over there. We should pray before our creator for some miracle happening for those 139 costly, patriot, dedicated and devoted lives.
    We are safe and sleeping in our villas bcoz of them. May Allah blessed the concerned families with immense patience, no doubt the whole nation is in deep grief and sorrow.

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  • Apr 12, 2012 - 8:31AM

    Our prayers & thoughts are with the brave Soldiers who are always ready to sacrifice
    their lives for the greater good of our motherland. My brave Soldiers, I salute your bravery & cause & may ALMIGHTY ALLAH bless you
    with life & give strength to the families in this tough time!

    Recommend

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