Rescue teams and helicopters were searching on Wednesday for 10 soldiers who went missing after an avalanche struck the Siachen Glacier in Jammu and Kashmir, the world’s highest and coldest militarised zone.
Army spokesperson NN Joshi said several personnel from the Madras Regiment were buried under the snow deluge triggered on the northern side of the glacier early in the morning.
“The post was manned by one junior commissioned officer and nine soldiers,” said another army spokesperson, Col SD Goswami.
Situated on the northern edge of the Himalayas in Kashmir with altitudes reaching as high as 22,000 feet, the glacier is an icy desert and has become more prone to avalanches after recent snowfall in the upper reaches of the Valley.
Indian and Pakistani armies battling for the snow wastelands of Siachen since 1984 have lost more soldiers to adverse weather than combat.
“Rescue operations by specialised teams from army and air force are underway to rescue the soldiers,” the defence ministry said in a statement.
On April 7, 2012 at least 130 Pakistani soldiers and 14 civilians were killed when a giant wall of snow crashed down on one of the neighbouring country’s defence headquarters.
While the Indian Army was not able to provide fresh data, statistics accessed by Hindustan Times earlier had revealed that a third of the total army fatalities in the Kashmir valley between January 2007 and March 2012 were due to avalanches.
At least 242 soldiers were killed in the Valley during those five years, of which 180 lost their lives fighting militants. The rest were consumed by natural calamities, mostly snow deluges.
Last month, four soldiers of the 3 Ladakh Scouts battalion were killed when their patrol party was hit by a massive avalanche in the region.
In April last year, four army personnel lost their lives when an avalanche struck the Chang La area of Siachen.
(With inputs from Tarun Upadhyay in Jammu)