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Pakistan Avalanche - Rescuers Recover Soldiers Buried At Kashmir Army Base
2012-04-07 15:07:16 (229 weeks ago)
Posted By: Intellpuke

Rescuers have recovered a number of bodies after an avalanche hit a Pakistani Army base in the disputed Kashmir region, burying up to 150 soldiers in 80 feet of snow.

Helicopters, sniffer dogs and troops have been deployed to the remote Siachen Glacier on the Indian border in the Himalayas, according to the Pakistan Army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas.

Military and television reports from Pakistan suggested between 100 and 150 soldiers were buried.

The local Urdu TV channel, News 5, quoted unidentified army sources as saying that at least 30 soldiers were killed in the avalanche, but there was no official confirmation of that figure.

Local media said the rescuers had encountered problems due to bad weather.

(story continues below)

The avalanche hit a battalion headquarters in the glacier's Gayari sector at 5.45am on Saturday, according to Abbas.

He told the BBC: "Some bodies have been recovered but it's too early to say how many have survived and how many bodies have been recovered."

He said people were praying the rescue operation would be successful and that it was extremely rare for an avalanche to reach the army base.

Siachen is on the northern tip of the divided Kashmir region claimed by both India and Pakistan. Both countries station thousands of troops there, who brave cold temperatures, altitude sickness and high winds for months at a time. Troops have been deployed at elevations of up to 6,700 meters (22,000 feet) and have fought intermittently since 1984, though the area has been quiet since a ceasefire in 2003. The glacier is known as the world's highest battlefield.

The headquarters in Gayari are the main gateway through which troops and supplies pass on their way to more remote outposts in the sector. It is situated in a valley between two high mountains, close to a military hospital, according to an officer who was stationed there in 2003.

"I can't comprehend how an avalanche can reach that place," said the officer. "It was supposed to be safe."

More soldiers have died from the harsh weather than combat on the glacier, which was uninhabited before troops moved there.

Conflict began there in 1984 when India occupied the heights of the 49-mile-long glacier, fearing Pakistan wanted to claim the territory. Pakistan then deployed its troops and both armies remain entrenched despite the ceasefire, costing the poverty-stricken countries millions of pounds each year.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since the partition of the subcontinent on independence from Britain in 1947. Two of the wars have been over Kashmir, which both claim in its entirety.

Intellpuke: You can read this article by Guardian Reporter Damien Pearse, with reporting by various news agencies, in context here:

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