Hope fading fast for Pakistan avalanche survivors

Hope fading fast for Pakistan avalanche survivors

Rescue workers on Monday continued to search for the 139 soldiers and civilians still trapped under heavy snow for more than two days after a massive avalanche struck an army camp in the country's northern Siachen Glacier area, Xinhua reported.

But up till now, none of the trapped people has been yet recovered since the Saturday morning tragedy. Army's chief spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said "it would be a miracle if any survivor is found".

Local media reported that snowfall started in the region on Monday, which is likely to hamper the already unsuccessful search and rescue operation.

An eight-member team of the American experts has also arrived in Pakistan to provide technical assistance in the ongoing rescue operation, the army said.

Discussion will be held with the team to find out possibility and nature of assistance required to rescue the soldiers and civilians buried under snow in Gayari sector, an army statement said.

Local media reports said that Pakistan also mulls seeking technical help from more countries as the rescue operation is becoming more challenging.

Muhammad Hanif, an official with the country's meterological department, had predicted snowfall in the coming days.

Pakistani TV channels reported that a meting of top commanders started in the army headquarters in Rawalpindi on Monday to discuss the rescue operation in Siachen. Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani presided over the meeting. The Formation Commanders were briefed on the outcome of the search and rescue operation. They also discussed the U.S. team offer for assistance.

"It is a big challenge and I am confident that the armed forces will meet it," local media quoted General Kayani as telling the commanders.

President Asif Ali Zardari talked on phone with the commanders monitoring the rescue operation shortly after he returned from his day-long visit to India on Sunday, presidential spokesman said.

In a moral boost effort and to personally monitor the rescue operation, the Army Chief Kayani visited Siachen Sunday. He was briefed about the situation. He appreciated the morale and efforts of troops who are braving the harsh weather and inhospitable terrain, the army statement said.

The army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told the media the avalanche covered an area of one square kilometer and the army rescuers are cutting the snow from four sides. He said the snow slide is nearly 80-feet (about 24 meters) high.

The avalanche Saturday morning hit a camp of Pakistan army in Siachen, the world's highest battle-ground, where thousands of Pakistani and Indian soldiers perform duties in harsh cold across the Line of Control (LoC), which divides the two countries in the disputed Kashmir region.

Officials said that harsh weather has killed more soldiers on both sides than clashes there. Guns had fallen silent at Siachen since the 2003 ceasefire along the LoC.

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