Jammu: A day after an avalanche hit the northern part of the Siachen Glacier, rescuers with dogs are carving through massive chunks of ice to reach 10 soldiers trapped after a wall of ice, a kilometre wide and 600 metres high, came crashing down on their post.
Sources have told NDTV, “It’s as if there is nothing, no post there at all.” Pakistan has offered to help India search for the soldiers. Pakistan’s top military officer at the border called his Indian counterpart.
Every minute counts now, say sources, pointing out that rescuers are working in temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees centigrade to navigate the extremely treacherous heights of the Saltoro ridge (directly West of the Siachen glacier) upon which the soldiers were based at a post located at 19,600 feet.
The Indian Army rescuers at the site of the avalanche are some of the best trained and equipped in the world, but the odds of a successful, if not miraculous rescue, boils down to one factor – have the fibre-reinforced huts used by the soldiers withstood the force of the massive avalanche?
Soldiers at posts above 15,000 feet in the Siachen glacier have access to oxygen cylinders, which is why rescuers are hopeful they haven’t died of suffocation if they managed to get back to their huts. However, by now, they would be running low on oxygen. The chances of surviving exposure to the ice, in case they couldn’t make it back, are negligible at this stage. Col. S.D. Goswami, an army spokesman, said the avalanche hit the area early yesterday.
The Siachen Glacier, located at the northern tip of Kashmir, is the highest and coldest battlefield in the world at an average altitude of 20,000 feet. More soldiers have died because of the weather elements than as a direct consequence of the Indo-Pak standoff at Siachen. At least 869 officers and soldiers have been killed here because of the inhospitable terrain and weather since India moved in to the Saltoro Range and the Siachen glacier in the mid-80s.