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27 Jan 2017

Avalanches kill 10 soldiers - 4 trapped under snow in Kashmir

Schoolgirls sit on the snow-covered steps of a stadium, watching the Republic Day celebrations in Srinagar. (Reuters)
TT, Srinagar, Jan. 26: Avalanches struck an army camp and an army patrol at two places at Gurez in north Kashmir yesterday, leaving 10 soldiers dead and four more trapped under the snow.
At least seven other soldiers have been rescued. Colonel N.N. Joshi, spokesman for the Northern Command, said the deaths could be confirmed only today.
He said rescue operations had been launched amid heavy snowfall immediately after the first avalanche struck the army camp.
"The search operation enabled the rescue of one JCO (junior commissioned officer) and six soldiers (yesterday) while the bodies of three soldiers were retrieved this morning," he said.
Seven bodies were recovered after another avalanche struck an army patrol, the defence spokesman in Srinagar, Colonel Rajesh Kalia, said.
He said the troops were braving inhospitable weather to search for survivors, if any. Sources said the patrol had 11 soldiers, which means four were still missing.
One more officer and four civilians died in avalanches elsewhere in the Valley yesterday, as reported in Thursday's edition of this newspaper.
Major Amit Sagar, whose family lives in Delhi's Janakpuri neighbourhood, died when an avalanche struck an army barracks in Sonamarg in central Kashmir. The army said the 43-year-old officer was survived by his wife, an 18-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old son.
A family of four, including two children, were killed in a third avalanche in Gurez yesterday. A labourer died in Kupwara while clearing snow from a rooftop.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today expressed grief at the soldiers' deaths.
"Deeply saddened at the death of our Veer jawans in an avalanche in Kashmir. Have directed the authorities for speedy search and rescue operations," he tweeted.
Kashmir is witnessing its worst snowfall in years. The Republic Day celebrations were held amid snowfall.
Civil servants unfurled the Tricolour in all the Valley's 10 districts in the absence of ministers, who failed to reach Kashmir from winter capital Jammu because of bad weather.
Life has been disrupted across the Valley, with the authorities rescuing scores from avalanche-prone areas in Gurez, Machil, Karnah and other places.
Sonam Lotus, director of the Met office in Srinagar, said the weather might start improving from tomorrow.
A PTI report said that a "high-danger" avalanche warning had been issued today for some avalanche-prone slopes in Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh.
"People are advised to keep clearing the snow deposition from rooftops of their houses/bunkers to avoid damage," said the warning from the Chandigarh-based Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment.
Power and communication lines have been cut in some areas of the state, Reuters reported.
In 2012, a massive avalanche in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir had killed 140 people, including 129 soldiers.

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