Kashmir, Feb.8: Seventeen Armymen, including a Captain, have died and 20 people have been injured in an avalanche in Jammu and Kashmir. But over 400 people, mostly Armymen and porters, trapped have been rescued.
The avalanche occurred at 11 am on Monday at Khelanmarg near Gulmarg. The Army’s High Altitude Warfare School at Gulmarg had established an advance camp at Gujjar Hut on Sunday, and 300 Army trainees, 100 trainers, 60 support staff and 50 civilians were present when the avalanche came down.
"The jawans had gone there for some training, they keep going there," said AQ Manhas, Gulmarg DIG, North Kashmir.
The men were trapped for several hours as the rescue operations started late and continued till late in the evening. Army and police rescue teams were on the job since morning. Reports came in by 5.30 in the evening that all those trapped had been rescued.
"No civilian or tourist were hit by the avalanche. All of them are safe," said Nasir Sogami, Tourism Minister, J&K.
Rescue efforts were delayed by incessant snowfall over the last 48 hours, which affected the movement of vehicles. Officials had to ski to the location.
Snow Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE) had issued an avalanche warning last evening and advised people living in high altitude areas not to venture in the area which has been receiving heavy snowfall for the past three days.
"Avalanche warning exists in the high altitude areas for the next 24 hours. People living in the areas are cautioned to avoid movement during snowfall and not to venture out in avalanche prone areas", SASE said.
Areas where high danger avalanche warning exists included Sonamarg, Gagangir, Bhimbat, Drass, Batalic, Dhudi and S M Hills in Kargil district.
It said areas where medium danger of avalanche warning exists included Khilanmarg, Uri, Baaz, Razdan Top, Z-Gali, Keran, Furkian top, Machil, Sadna Top, Urez, Niru, Baruab and Chowkibal in Kupwara and Baramulla districts of North Kashmir.
Areas where low danger avalanche warning exists include both sides of Jawahar Tunnel, the gateway to Kashmir and its adjoining areas on the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway