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Pakistani troops dig for missing in avalanche

April 7, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
An avalanche swept across an army base in Pakistan, burying more than a hundred soldiers.

It happened at the entrance to the Siachen Glacier on the northern tip of the divided Kashmir region, which is claimed by both India and Pakistan.

Rescue crews including sniffer dogs and mechanical equipment were deployed to the area, but they were struggling to make much headway into the avalanche, which crashed down onto the rear headquarters building in the Gayari sector early in the morning, burying it under some 21 meters (70 feet) of snow.

The accident highlighted the risks of deploying troops to one of the most inhospitable places on earth.

The thousands of troops from both nations stationed there face viciously cold temperatures, altitude sickness, high winds and isolation for months at a time.

Troops have been deployed at elevations of up to 6,700 meters (22,000 feet) and have skirmished intermittently since 1984, though the area has been quiet since a cease-fire in 2003. The glacier is known as the world's highest battlefield.

More soldiers have died from the weather than combat on the glacier, which was uninhabited before troops moved there.

Conflict there began in 1984 when India occupied the heights of the 78-kilometer (49-mile)-long glacier, fearing Pakistan wanted to claim the territory. Pakistan also deployed its troops. Both armies remain entrenched despite the cease-fire, costing the poverty-stricken countries many millions of dollars each year.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since the partition of the subcontinent on independence from Britain in 1947. Two of the wars have been over Kashmir, which both claim in its entirety.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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