ISLAMABAD, April 8 (BSS/AFP) - The Pakistani military on Sunday dug through snow, boulders and slush in an increasingly desperate search for 135 people buried in an avalanche, as hopes faded of finding any survivors.
Nearly 36 hours after a wall of snow crashed into a remote
army camp high up in the mountains of Kashmir, rescuers were yet
to recover any survivors or even bodies from the Siachen Glacier,
where Pakistani and Indian troops face off.
The camp was engulfed between 5:00am and 6:00am on Saturday -
- perhaps when some were sleeping -- by a mass of snow, stones,
mud and slush more than 1,000 metres (3,300 feet) wide and 25
metres high, the military said in a statement.
About 180 military personnel and 60 civilian rescuers were
braving freezing temperatures at the inhospitable site close to
the de facto border with India, in area known as the world's
highest battlefield, the military said.
Experts familiar with the glacier said there was little hope
of finding survivors -- the military said overnight that 135
people were missing from the camp, including 124 soldiers from
the 6th Northern Light Infantry battalion.
"There is no hope, there is no chance at all," mountaineering
expert Colonel Sher Khan told AFP.
"You can survive only in the first 5-10 minutes," said Khan.
"The casualties in avalanches occur due to pressure of heavy
weight, extreme cold and lack of oxygen."
The powerful army chief General Ashfaq Kayani visited the
epicentre of the disaster and "supervised rescue operations
himself", the military said.
"Its a huge, huge avalanche," a senior military officer told
AFP, adding rescue work would take several days.
Specially trained search-and-rescue teams of army engineers
equipped with the latest locating gadgets and heavy machinery had
arrived, the military statement said, joining rescue units aided
by sniffer dogs and helicopters.