x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Hopes fade for survivors of Pakistan avalanche

Rescuers searching for 138 people buried under a large avalanche at a Pakistani army camp concentrated on five points at the site, the military said.

ISLAMABAD // Rescuers searching for 138 people buried under a large avalanche at a Pakistani army camp concentrated on five points at the site, the military said.

A wall of snow crashed into the Siachen Glacier base in the mountains in Kashmir on Saturday, smothering an area of one square kilometre.

Experts said there is little chance of finding any survivors.

Despite harsh conditions, the military said efforts had intensified, with more than 450 people taking part — up from 286 yesterday — aided by mechanical earth movers, bulldozers and excavators, and work is focusing on certain key areas.

"Five points have been identified on the site where rescue work is in progress," the military said in a statement. "Two points are being dug with equipment while three points are being dug manually."

Photographs released by the military showed diggers and rescuers at work on an almost featureless expanse of dirty grey snow and ice, with no trace visible of the camp that had been the 6th Northern Light Infantry headquarters.

The total number believed missing in the disaster rose to 138, as the military released an updated list naming 127 soldiers and 11 civilians. They include a lieutenant colonel, a major and a captain.

Army chief General Ashfaq Kayani visited the site on Sunday and said an avalanche of this magnitude was unprecedented in the 20 years the battalion had been based at the site.

Manzoor Hussain, the president of the Alpine Club of Pakistan, said the camp had probably been hit by a chunk of glacier that split from the main mass.

He said there was "no possibility" of anyone surviving and warned efforts to find those buried under the mass of snow using specialist equipment would become harder.

"It is becoming difficult to locate people through thermal imagery camera and infra-red system because by now probably there would be no body temperature under the snow," he said.