Weather Hampers Avalanche Recovery Efforts in World’s Highest Battlefield

Posted April 9th, 2012 at 12:10 pm (UTC-5)
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Poor weather conditions are hampering recovery efforts two days after an avalanche buried more than 135 Pakistani soldiers and civilians in what is known as the world's highest battlefield.

A 20-meter wall of snow plowed into the military complex in the Siachen Glacier region near the Indian border early Saturday. Both Pakistan and India have military outposts near the disputed glacier, high in the mountains of Kashmir.

An eight-member team of U.S. military experts arrived in Islamabad to aid in rescue operations, but were unable to travel to the site on Monday due to bad weather. U.S. Embassy spokesman Mark Stroh told VOA the United States is ready to do whatever it can to help Pakistan deal with the “horrific incident.”

Pakistan's military says a team of experts from Germany and Switzerland is also arriving in the country to provide help.

Nearly 300 Pakistani troops and civilians have been using bulldozers, search dogs and helicopters to locate those buried under more than 70 meters of snow. There is no sign that anyone has survived the disaster. Military officials say no bodies have been recovered so far.

Pakistan's army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, visited the disaster site on Sunday and supervised rescue efforts on the remote 6,000-meter peak.

The Pakistan military said at least 124 soldiers from the 6th Northern Light Infantry Battalion and 11 civilians were buried under the snow.

Pakistan and India have thousands of troops stationed on either side of Siachen, which has been violently disputed since 1984. But the region has been calm in the last decade, with the inhospitable climate and avalanche-prone terrain claiming more lives than gunfire.

India's foreign secretary says Prime Minister Manmohan Singh offered humanitarian assistance to Pakistan during Sunday's talks with President Asif Ali Zardari in New Delhi.

Pakistan and India both claim the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir in full. Territorial disputes over control of the rugged region have sparked two wars between the nuclear-armed neighbors.