ISLAMABAD: At least 135 people, including 124 servicemen and 11 civilians, went missing early Saturday after an avalanche hit them at Gayari sector near Siachen Glacier, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said.
The incident occurred at about 6am at an altitude of about 16,000 feet (4 876.8 meters) and 180 miles northeast of Skardu the capital of Baltistan.
Troops with sniffer dogs, aided by helicopters, were frantically trying to find signs of life in the deep snow after the avalanche engulfed the camp in mountainous Gayari, Siachen, in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir. Heavy machinery has been flown in from Rawalpindi.
A team of doctors and paramedics also rushed to the high-altitude militarised region, which is close to the de facto border with India and where temperatures plummet to minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94F).
“More than 100 soldiers of NLI (Northern Light Infantry) including a colonel were trapped when the avalanche hit a military camp,” army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told AFP.
He later added that despite hours of searching and contrary to local media reports, no bodies or survivors had been found. An ISPR release also revised the figure to 135 trapped.
“It’s too early to say anything,” he replied when asked about the chances of finding anyone alive after more than 12 hours. “The rescue operation is under way.”
List of names of all those buried under the snow can be found here.
ISPR has provided the following helpline numbers from where relatives of the buried soldiers can inquire about updates:
051-50932040, 051-5590212, 0321-5136525
President, Prime Minister express sorrow, regret
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani expressed deep sorrow and regret over the “unfortunate snow slide” near Siachen.
A statement from the prime minister says that he is in constant contact with the concerned authorities regarding the rescue operation and has said that the incident will not undermine high morale of the soldiers and officers.
President Asif Ali Zardari has also expressed concern over the incident and prayed for the soldiers’ early recovery.
Zardari has directed concerned authorities to expedite the rescue and relief operation to save the lives of those stranded in the snow, adding that all possible options and facilities should be utilised for their safe recovery, including full cooperation and assistance from the civil administration
Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan has also expressed sorrow over the incident and has asked the nation to pray for the soldiers.
List of names of those buried can be found here.