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April 15, 2012

Fresh landslide at Siachen avalanche hampers search

 
April 15, 2012

RAWALPINDI: The severe cold weather could not deter the search and rescue teams who have intensified their operation and have been working round the clock at the Gayari sector to rescue the 139 buried soldiers.

Director General Military Operations (DGMO) Major General Ashfaq Nadeem Ahmad told media persons at a briefing that more than 400 troops and 60 civilians besides experts from Army, NDMA, Suparco and Comsats were engaged in the search and rescue operation.

DG ISPR Major General Athar Abbas was also present during the briefing.

To a question, the military official said the excavation work was being carried out at eight places while at some locations, the rescue workers have been able to touch ground but so far no success has been achieved, adding that the battalion headquarters was located in a 300 to 400 meters radius but the avalanche was even bigger.

He said that German and Swiss teams of experts had already been brought to the site and a team of experts from China had also arrived to assist in the rescue operation.

Major General Ashfaq Nadeem said that the US team could not reach the site owing to bad weather. He said a Norwegian team would reach the area today (Sunday).

Giving details of the search and rescue efforts by maps and video clips, the DGMO said that it was a challenge to deploy heavy equipment at the site of the incident but so far they were able to move 21 plants including excavators, bulldozers and trucks which were working round the clock.

He informed journalists that more such machinery would be moved to the site during the next 24 hours bringing the number of heavy equipment to 50.

He said that Pakistan Air Force (PAF) had also dedicated three C-130 planes while pre-fabricated accommodation had also been made for rescuers who were working at a temperature of -15 degrees centigrade.

The DGMO said sniffer dogs and generators were already shifted to Gayari which was at an

altitude of 13,000 ft.

To a question about the recovery of soldiers alive, the senior military official could not say more than pray to Almighty Allah for a miracle. "The weather is likely to improve tomorrow (Sunday) and we are hopeful of success," he said.

About the visit of families of the victims to the site of incident, he said, it could create problems in the rescue efforts but said the concerns of the affected families were paramount and appreciated the patience shown by them.

He however said that representatives of the media could be taken to Gayari as soon as the weather improves.

He said the incident took place around three to five am while local rescue teams had reached within two hours but sending heavy equipment took some time.

To a question, he said some bunkers were underground while some of them were on the ground but it did not make any difference when such a huge avalanche hit the area.

The DGMO said that the battalion headquarters was set up about 22 years ago but informed that landslides were a common phenomena during March-April in that area.

Maj Gen Ashfaq Nadeem said that alternate battalion headquarters had already been set up and troops deployed on forward positions were being controlled from there. "An alternate battalion headquarters was immediately created and it was fully functional," he added.

Speaking on the occasion, DG ISPR, Maj Gen Athar Abbas said that the snow slide came from the height of 18,000 ft.

He said the affected families have shown great patience and prayed for a miracle for the safe recovery of soldiers.

He said 139 soldiers were at the battalion headquarters which is located at the same site for the last 20 to 22 years when the avalanche hit it.

Meanwhile, the ISPR on Saturday said that a fresh slide, which was triggered at the site of the old avalanche, has created difficulties for troops devoted to conducting the search and rescue operation at Gayari.

The difficult situation has been compounded by the mass of snow in which troops are working under low temperature, intermittent snowfall and piercing blizzards. However, concern for their brothers at arms under the avalanche is driving the troops of the Siachen sector to endure the hardships of the weather and terrain to accomplish their task befittingly.

The excavation work, therefore, continue at its fullest exploiting all available manual and mechanical resources.

The endeavour is to dig as quickly as possible. In this regard, the search teams have commenced excavation at a new site as well with the help of plant equipment and infantry troops. The rescue teams have conducted first level explosion to dig further into the hard mass of snow against the tunnel being attempted to access a suspected structure at an important excavation site. The digging team is doing a remarkable job in undertaking the tunnelling effort against all odds like a heavy pileup of snow, extreme cold and cramped work space.

The ISPR says that the all out support rendered by the nation by making maximum resources available has boosted the morale of the troops and given them vigour to undertake the mammoth task.

More than 450 rescuers are working in sub-zero temperatures at the site, though experts have said there is virtually no chance of finding any survivors. None of the buried men has so for been recovered.

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