Himachal avalanche: Trace of 5 missing soldiers speeds up

Shimla: With the weather clearing up on Saturday following days of snowfall, rescuers sped up their search efforts near the Tibet border in Himachal Pradesh, where an avalanche killed a soldier and five more went missing earlier this week.

The authorities suspect that the possibility of survival of those trapped in the snow pile was minimal as the searches entered the fourth day.

“The search operation began early in the morning and we are hopeful,” an Indian Army spokesperson told IANS.

Mountaineers of Dogra Scouts, as well as specialised equipment, including thermal radars, have been deployed in the search operation.

Blizzard conditions, high speed winds, fresh snowfall and poor visibility had severely hampered the rescue operations, the spokesperson added.

An avalanche on February 20 was triggered when the glacier near Namgia Dogri bordering Tibet slid, burying six soldiers of the Jammu and Kashmir Rifles when 16 of them were on a routine patrol.

Body of one soldier was found later. Five Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) troopers were also injured in the disaster.

The state government said two separate parties of the Army and the ITBP were patrolling at Namgia Dogri when the avalanche hit.

The soldier who died has been identified as Rakesh Kumar, 41, belonging to Himachal Pradesh’s Bilaspur district. His body was airlifted on Friday and sent to his native village.

Meanwhile, the movement on the national highway between Pooh and Karcham in Kinnaur (NH-5) continued to be hampered due to rock falls and snow slides.

The General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF), a wing of the Border Roads Organisation, has been deployed to clear the road, officials said.

The disaster spot, which is some 350 km from the state capital, had been witnessing heavy snowfall over the past few days.