Rescuers began excavating a new site in their search for 138 people buried alive by an avalanche at a high-altitude army camp despite a fresh slide in the area, the military said on Saturday.
A week ago,a huge wall of snow crashed into the remote Siachen Glacier in the morning, smothering an area of one square kilometre.
A fresh slide at the same site created difficulties for troops conducting search operations in low temperatures, intermittent snowfall and blizzards, the military said in a statement, without specifying the date of the new slide.
The statement said that the digging team is doing a remarkable job in undertaking the tunnelling effort against all odds.
“The search teams conducted a first level explosion to dig further into a hard mass of snow against the tunnel being attempted to access…”
Military spokesperson Maj Gen Athar Abbas said that despite the difficulties facing the troops, concern for their brothers trapped under the avalanche is the driving force for them to endure the severe weather and terrain.
“The all-out support rendered by the nation by making maximum resources available have boosted the morale of the troops and given them vigour to undertake the mammoth task,” he said.
Details of rescue operation
Director General Military Operations Maj Gen Ashfaq Nadeem briefed the media on the rescue operation with the help of maps, slides and video clips in Rawalpindi on Saturday.
He said high altitude specialist teams from Germany and Switzerland have reached the remote site and a Chinese team will arrive in Islamabad Saturday morning, while a Norwegian team is due on Sunday. However, the specialist team from the US could not be deployed due to bad weather.
Maj Gen Nadeem said that rescuers had successfully been able to reach ground level at three points but failed to find anybody trapped there, meaning they were trapped in other places of the battalion headquarters. Search teams are looking for the trapped soldiers and civilians at six different points on the site.
Troops were also attempting to dig a horizontal tunnel at the base of the main excavation site to reach what is thought to be one of the camp buildings.
Maj Gen Nadeem said more than 400 troops along with 60 civilians are participating in the search and rescue operation, along with the assistance of national experts comprising research teams of Pakistan Army, National Disaster Management Authority, Suparco and Comsats.
He said that it was a challenge to deploy heavy equipment at the site but so far they have been able to move 21 plant machines that are working round-the-clock at the site. He said more such machinery would be moved to the site in the next 24 hours bringing the number of heavy equipment to 50.
On allowing victims’ families to visit the site, he said it could create hurdles in rescue efforts but said that concerns of affected families were paramount and appreciated the patience shown by them. He added that the media would be allowed to visit Giari as soon as the weather improves.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 15th, 2012.