ISLAMABAD – More than 130 Pakistani soldiers are buried under 80 feet of snow in a remote area in the north when an avalanche hit
The incident took place in the Siachen area of Pakistan in the
Karakoram range of the Himalayas. Pakistan army spokesman, Major
General Athar Abbas, maintained that more than 100 soldiers of the NLI (Northern Light Infantry), including a colonel, were trapped when the avalanche hit the military camp.
Inter Service Publc Relations (ISPR) of Pakistan Army said that
despite weather hazards, rescue work continues at Gayari. A total of 452 persons, including 69 civilians, are employed on relief efforts. Two dozers, 2 JCBs (Earth movers), 3 excavators, and 2 dumpers are working day and night on the site. Five points have been identified at the site where rescue work is in progress. Two points are being dug with equipment, while three points are being dug manually.
Foreign rescue teams, a six-member German team, and a three-member Switzerland team have arrived in Pakistan and are waiting for weather clearance to proceed to Gayari. The US military also arrived to assist. Seven members of an SPD team is using a life detection kit and thermal imaging camera during the rescue operation.
Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, visited Siachen on Sunday to see the rescue operation launched to recover the 139 soldiers and civilians trapped under the avalanche. COAS was accompanied by the Corps Commander Lieutenant General Khalid Nawaz Khan.
Major General Ikram ul Haq, Commander FCNA, apprised the COAS about the details of the rescue operation.
COAS, while visiting the site of the rescue operation, said that an avalanche of such magnitude was unprecedented in the last twenty years of this Battalion Headquarters existence at Gayari. COAS further said that the Army has mobilized all available resources with the assistance of PAF to carry out a full-scale rescue operation. He appreciated the morale and efforts of troops who are braving the harsh weather and inhospitable terrain. COAS instructed the Commanders to optimally utilize all available resources at their disposal and leave no stone unturned to reach out to the entrapped personnel. COAS said that efforts are underway to acquire the latest technical equipment for the
rescue. COAS emphasized that calamity in no way should affect the morale of the troops defending the motherland at the highest
The Siachen glacier is the highest battleground on Earth, where India and Pakistan have fought intermittently since April 13, 1984. Both countries maintain a permanent military presence in the region at a height of over 6,000 meters (20,000 feet). More than 3,000 people have died in this inhospitable terrain, mostly due to weather extremes and the natural hazards of mountain warfare, but both countries are always shy to share the real number of causalities to national or international media, because the whole world considers this war by two neighbors, a war for ego rather for land or supremacy.
The conflict in Siachen stems from the incompletely demarcated
territory on the map beyond the map coordinate known as NJ9842. The 1972 Simla Agreement did not clearly mention who controlled the glacier, merely stating that from the NJ9842 location, the boundary would proceed “thence north to the glaciers.” UN officials presumed there would be no dispute between India and Pakistan over such a cold and barren region.
A cease-fire went into effect in 2003. Even before then, every year more soldiers were killed because of severe weather than enemy firing.
The two sides, by 2003, had lost an estimated 3,000 personnel primarily due to frostbite, avalanches, and other complications. Together, the nations have about 150 manned outposts along the glacier, with some 3,000 troops each. Official figures for maintaining these outposts are put at US$300 and US$200 million annually for India and Pakistan, respectively.
India built the world’s highest helipad on the glacier at Point Sonam, 21,000 feet (6,400 meters) above sea level, to supply its troops. The problems of reinforcing or evacuating the high-altitude ridgeline have led both countries to buy extraordinarily expensive helicopters, powered by extremely powerful engines that can work in the minimum oxygen available at this height.