Four soldiers, two civilian porters killed as avalanche hits patrol in Siachen
The avalanche took place in the Northern Glacier where altitude is around 18,000 feet and above, AMI reported. Situated on the northern edge of the Himalayas in Ladakh, the glacier which reaches heights of 22,000 feet at places is prone to avalanches.Updated: Nov 19, 2019 01:30 IST
Four army soldiers and two porters succumbed to extreme hypothermia after being struck by an avalanche in the Siachen glacier on Monday.
The deceased were part of an eight-member patrol team which was operating in the Northern Sector of Siachen glacier at an altitude of 19,000 ft. The rescue teams managed to pull out all the trapped personnel from the debris and seven of them, who were critically injured, were airlifted to the nearest military hospital.
“Today at about 3 pm, a patrol of eight persons was struck by an avalanche in northern Siachen glacier,” said an army official.
The incident evokes unpleasant memories of 10 soldiers getting killed in an avalanche in Siachen in February 2016. One of them was rescued alive by the army a week after he was buried under 35 feet of snow. A small air pocket helped Lance Naik Hanamanthappa Koppad survive.
“No words are enough to describe the endurance & indomitable spirit of Lance Naik Hanumanthappa. He is an outstanding soldier,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi then tweeted, as the entire country prayed for the 33-year-old soldier’s recovery.
He, however, died at the Army Hospital Research and Referral here a few days later due to medical complications. The soldier was conscious when he was rescued at an altitude of 20,500 feet, but later slipped into a coma before he died. He was among 10 soldiers of 19 Madras Regiment who were presumed dead after a blinding slide struck their post in the western Himalayas on February 3, 2016.
The Madras Regiment soldiers were buried under snow after a massive wall of ice measuring 800ft by 400ft collapsed on their post. The ice debris covered an area spanning 1,000 metre by 800 metres, creating a nightmare for rescue teams.
The latest incident has once again turned the spotlight on the importance of the glacier and the challenges soldiers guarding it face daily.
According to experts, Siachen is strategically important because so long as it is in India’s control, the Pakistani army can’t link up with the Chinese and pose a threat to Ladakh. It acts as a wedge between the Shaksgam Valley under Chinese control and Baltistan, which is occupied by Pakistan, they point out.
India, which spends Rs 5 to Rs 7 crore daily on guarding the glacier, has deployed around 3,000 soldiers at Siachen, where temperatures can drop to minus 60 degrees Celsius.
More than 1,000 soldiers have died guarding the area since the army took control of the inhospitable glacier in April 1984, almost twice the number of lives lost in the Kargil war. While about 220 men have been killed in firing from the Pakistani side, the other casualties have been caused by extreme weather, avalanches and treacherous terrain.
Guns have been silent on the glacier since the November 2003 ceasefire between India and Pakistan.