Pakistani soldiers dug into a massive avalanche in a mountain battleground close to the Indian border, searching for at least 117 of their colleagues buried when the wall of snow engulfed a military complex.
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 major general 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 on to the rear headquarters building in the Gayari sector early in the morning, burying it under some 70 feet of snow, said Mr Abbas.
“It’s on a massive scale,” he said. “Everything is completely covered.”
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. More soldiers have died from the weather than combat on the glacier, which was uninhabited before troops moved there.
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 22,000 feet and have skirmished intermittently since 1984, though the area has been quiet since a ceasefire 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 undermine the high morale of soldiers and officers”.
The headquarters in Gayari, situated at around 15,000 feet is the main gateway through which troops and supplies pass on their way to other more remote outposts in the sector.
It is requested to all the nation to pray for the safety of life of these soldiers, who always make sure your safety.