10 soldiers hit by avalanche confirmed dead

10 soldiers hit by avalanche confirmed dead
The 10 Army personnel, including an officer, who were buried under a mass of snow after being hit by an avalanche yesterday at a high-altitude post on Siachen Glacier in Jammu and Kashmir, have died.

Army and IAF tried hard since yesterday to rescue the soldiers -- a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) and nine other ranks of Madras Regiment -- after their post was hit by the avalanche at the altitude of 19,000 feet close to the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan.

Specialised teams with modern equipment, flown to Leh this morning, were also pressed into service along with sniffer dogs but all efforts to rescue them failed.

"Demise of soldiers in Siachen is very tragic. I salute the brave soldiers who gave their lives to the nation. Condolences to their families," Prime Minister Narendra said, confirming the fears about their fate.

"It is a tragic event and we salute the soldiers who braved all challenges to guard our frontiers and made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty," said Lt Gen DS Hooda, Army Commander, Northern Command, in a message.

Defence PRO based in Northern Command Col S D Goswami earlier said in statement in Jammu that "Rescue teams are braving adverse weather and effects of rarified atmosphere to locate and rescue survivors. However, it is with deepest of regrets that we have to state that chances of finding any survivors are now very remote."

The glaciated area presents temperatures ranging from a minimum of minus 42 degrees Celsius in the night to maximum of minus 25 degrees C during the day.

Heavy snow cutters and special equipment were used to clear and cut the ice blocks, as Army and IAF teams battled harsh weather conditions and difficult terrain to trace the missing soldiers.

Col Goswami said blocks of snow had fallen on the post, burying it very deep. "To clear the same is a very difficult task", he said earlier in the day, adding that "building on yesterday's efforts, a very large rescue team has been deployed today to reach down till the post".

Interestingly, Pakistan offered help in the rescue operation which was turned down by India. Pakistan's DGMO Maj Gen Amir Riaz called up his Indian counterpart Lt Gen Ranbir Singh earlier in the day to offer help, Army sources said. Lt Gen Singh declined the offer, saying adequate resources have already been put in place.

The sources said such calls are routine whenever any mishap happens near the border. "We thanked them for the gesture but since our resources and teams are well placed and adequate, we have said that presently we don't require any help," the sources said.

Jammu and Kashmir Governor N N Vohra spoke to Gen Hooda to convey his heartfelt sympathy to the bereaved families over the "tragic loss" of lives.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar also condoled the death of the soldiers. "My heartfelt condolences to the near and dear ones of our brave soldiers who were martyred in the line of duty in the most difficult terrain of Siachen," he said in Delhi. The Minister said it is the duty of the country to take care of their families.
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