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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Pakistani troops-135 missing in avalanche

Pakistani soldiers are digging for a second day to find 135 people buried by a massive avalanche that engulfed a military complex near the Indian border.
Military officials said Sunday they have not recovered any bodies over 24 hours after the avalanche occurred. They are sending more heavy equipment to help with the effort.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

The disaster occurred at the entrance to the Siachen Glacier, a mountain battleground where Pakistani and Indian troops have faced off for decades.
The army has said at least 124 soldiers and 11 civilian contractors were missing under some 21 meters (70 feet) of snow.
Pakistani soldiers dug into a massive avalanche in a mountain battleground close to the Indian border on Saturday, searching for at least 135 people buried when the wall of snow engulfed a military complex.
Pakistani soldiers carry supplies Feb. 19 in Pakistan's Dir district. An avalanche smashed into a Pakistani base on Saturday.
More than 12 hours after the disaster at the entrance to the Siachen Glacier, no survivors had been found.
"We are waiting for news and keeping our fingers crossed," said army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas.

Hundreds of troops, sniffer dogs and mechanical equipment were at the scene, but were struggling to make much headway into the avalanche, which crashed down onto the rear headquarters building in the Gayari sector early in the morning, burying it under some 21 meters (70 feet) of snow, Abbas said.
"It's on a massive scale," he added. "Everything is completely covered."
The military said in a statement that at least 124 soldiers and 11 civilian contractors were missing.
Siachen is on the northern tip of the divided Kashmir region claimed by both India and Pakistan.
The accident highlighted the risks of deploying troops to one of the most inhospitable places on earth.
The thousands of troops from both nations stationed there brave viciously cold temperatures, altitude sickness, high winds and isolation for months at a time. Troops have been deployed at elevations of up to 6,700 meters (22,000 feet) and have skirmished intermittently since 1984, though the area has been quiet since a cease-fire in 2003. The glacier is known as the world's highest battlefield.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani expressed his shock at the incident, which he said "would in no way would undermine the high morale of soldiers and officers."
The headquarters in Gayari, situated at around 4,572 meters (15,000 feet) is the main gateway through which troops and supplies pass on their to other 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, who didn't give his name because he is not authorized to speak to the media. "It was supposed to be safe."
More soldiers have died from the weather than combat on the glacier, which was uninhabited before troops moved there.
Conflict there began in 1984 when India occupied the heights of the 78-kilometer (49-mile)-long glacier, fearing Pakistan wanted to claim the territory. Pakistan also deployed its troops. Both armies remain entrenched despite the cease-fire, costing the poverty-stricken countries many millions of dollars 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.
Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari will sit down to lunch with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi on Sunday in the highest-level meeting on each other's soil in seven years as the nuclear-armed foes seek to normalize relations.
Relations have warmed since Pakistan promised its neighbor most favored nation trade status in 2011, although a $10 million bounty offered by Washington for a Pakistani Islamist blamed for the 2008 attacks on Mumbai stirred old grievances.
At the lunch meeting the two leaders are expected to focus on trade, where progress has been made, leaving more intractable problems, such as Kashmir, to lower officials.
"The Prime Minister will talk only about issues related to trade, education and culture this time," a government source with knowledge of the itinerary told Reuters.
On Saturday, an avalanche buried 124 Pakistani soldiers and 11 civilians near the 6,000-metre Siachen glacier in Kashmir, known as the world's highest battlefield. India and Pakistan fought two wars over Siachen and hundreds have died there, mostly from the inhospitable conditions.

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