NEW DELHI: All the 10 Army personnel trapped under a mass of snow after a massive avalanche struck their high-altitude military post yesterday in Siachen Glacier were today feared dead.
As the rescue operations continued for the second day today, a defence spokesman said chances of finding any survivors were “very remote” after the deadly avalanche hit an army post that was manned by the armymen attached to Madras battalion at an altitude of 19,600 feet.
A statement by a top Army General, however, indicated that the worst fears of authorities may have come true.
“It is a tragic event and we salute the soldiers who braved all challenges to guard our frontiers and made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty,” said Lt Gen DS Hooda, Army Commander, Northern Command, in a message.
Jammu and Kashmir Governor spoke to Gen Hooda, Northern to convey his heartfelt sympathy to the bereaved families over the “tragic loss” of lives.
“Rescue teams are braving adverse weather and effects of rarified atmosphere to locate and rescue survivors. However, it is with deepest of regrets that we have to state that chances of finding any survivors are now very remote,” Defence PRO(Northern Command) Col SD Goswami said in a statement in Jammu.
As rescue efforts were today scaled up with induction of specialised teams, sniffer dogs and equipment, Pakistan offered its assistance but it was declined.
Director General of Military Operations Lt Gen Ranbir Singh declined his Pakistani counterpart’s offer for help in rescuing the Indian soldiers, saying adequate resources have already been put in place. Army sources in Delhi said Pakistan’s DGMO Maj Gen Amir Riaz called up Lt Gen Singh earlier in the day and offered help. They said such calls are routine whenever any mishap happens near the border.
“We thanked them for the gesture but since our resources and teams are well placed and adequate, we have said that presently we don’t require any help,” the sources said. The offer of help came over 30 hours after the avalanche in Northern Glacier sector in Ladakh region in the world’s highest battlefield hit the post early yesterday.
As the rescue operations by specialised teams of the Army and the Air Force entered the second day today, Col Goswami said specialised equipment was flown to Leh in the morning.
The glaciated area presents temperatures ranging from a minimum of minus 42 degrees Celsius in the night to maximum of minus 25 Degrees Celsius during the day, he said. He said that blocks of snow had fallen on the post, burying it very deep.
“To clear the same is a very difficult task”, he said, adding that “building on yesterday’s efforts, a very large rescue team has been deployed today to reach down till the post”.
“The rescue operations have been intensified with induction of specialised teams and equipment to trace the missing Army men”, the Defence PRO said.
Heavy snow cutters and special equipment are being used to clear and cut the ice blocks, as Army and Indian Air Force teams battle harsh weather conditions and difficult terrain to trace the missing soldiers.