Experts are saying there is no hope of finding any survivors from an avalanche that buried 135 people at a remote Pakistani army camp high in the mountains of Kashmir.
Nearly 36 hours after a wall of snow hit, rescuers have yet to recover any survivors. At this point, they haven’t even been able to recover any bodies.
The camp was raged early on Saturday morning by a mass of snow, stones, mud and slush.
The missing people included soldiers from Pakistan’s 6th Northern Light Infantry battalion.
About 180 soldiers and 60 civilian rescuers were working in freezing temperatures at the site of the avalanche, close to the border of India, in an area known as the world’s highest battlefield, the military said.
Experts familiar with the glacier said there was little hope of finding survivors.
“There is no hope, there is no chance at all,” mountaineering expert Colonel Sher Khan said. “You can survive only in the first five to 10 minutes. The casualties in avalanches occur due to pressure of heavy weight, extreme cold and lack of oxygen.”
“Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani visited the scene of the disaster and supervised rescue operations himself”, the military said.
“The avalanche of such a magnitude was unprecedented in last 20 years of this battalion headquarters’ existence at Gayari,” he said.
General Kayani instructed the commanders to utilize all available resources at their disposal and leave no stone unturned to reach out to the entrapped personnel,” it said.
“It’s a huge, huge avalanche,” a senior military officer said, adding that rescue work would take several days.
Specially trained search and rescue teams of army engineers equipped with the latest locating technology and heavy machinery had arrived, the military statement said, joining rescue units aided by sniffer dogs and helicopters.
The United States expressed its deep concern for the trapped soldiers and offered assistance in the search operations, the country’s embassy said. ”We offer our condolences for those who have lost their lives as a result of the avalanche,” it said.
The United States is ready to assist Pakistan in search, rescue and recovery operations.
A tentative peace process is under way. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari is scheduled to meet Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday, the first visit to India by a Pakistani head of state since 2005.
More news as it becomes available