News24

Pakistan focuses search for missing

2012-04-10 17:19

Islamabad - Rescuers searching for 135 people buried under a huge avalanche at a Pakistani army camp are concentrating the efforts on five points at the site, the military said on Tuesday.

A huge wall of snow crashed into the remote Siachen Glacier base high in the mountains in Kashmir early on Saturday morning, smothering an area of 1km².

Experts say there is little chance of finding any survivors.

The military said more than 450 people are taking part in relief efforts - up from 286 late on Monday - aided by mechanical earth movers, bulldozers and excavators, and work is focusing on certain key areas.

"Five points have been identified on the site where rescue work is in progress," the military said in a statement.

"Two points are being dug with equipment while three points are being dug manually."

Landslide

Photographs released by the military showed diggers and rescuers at work on an almost featureless expanse of dirty grey snow and ice, with no trace visible of the camp that had been the 6th Northern Light Infantry headquarters.

Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani visited on Sunday and said an avalanche of this magnitude was unprecedented in the 20 years the battalion had been based at the site.

Retired Pakistani Colonel Sher Khan, a mountaineering expert, suggested the devastation may have been caused by a landslide rather than an avalanche.

"For me it was a huge landslide provoked by a cloud burst, not an avalanche," he said.

"In this case a huge flood of water is coming down from the sky and creates a lot of mud and loose earth on the mountain. Mostly boulders, mud and water ran down the mountain."

Specialist teams from the US, Switzerland and Germany have arrived in Pakistan to help with the search.

The site is close to the de facto border with India in the militarised region of Kashmir, which has caused two of the three wars between the two countries since their independence in 1947.

The nuclear-armed rivals fought over Siachen in 1987, but guns on the glacier have largely fallen silent since a slow-moving peace process was launched in 2004.