17 killed as avalanche hits Army camp

Gulmarg

At least 17 Army personnel, including a young officer, were killed and 17 seriously injured when an avalanche struck an acclimatisation camp of the High Altitude Warfare School (HAWS) in Khilanmarg, five kilometres above Gulmarg, this morning. Two jawans are missing.

The three-day camp was to end today and the men were to head for postings in forward areas. The officer killed in the avalanche was identified as Lt Prateek. The Army used avalanche victim detectors (AVDs) to locate soldiers buried in the snow.

The J&K Disaster Management Cell has warned of more avalanches in the higher reaches of North Kashmir and asked civilians and security forces manning the Line of Control to take extra precaution.

Defence spokesman said some 400 Army personnel were training at one of the camp sites of HAWS when an avalanche struck the area. "Sixteen jawans and an officer were killed while 17 jawans, rescued from the snow, are in very critical condition," he said.

"Despite heavy snowfall in the region, the rescue operation has not been called off. Teams are looking in different directions for the missing jawans," Sood said.

A Q Manhas, DIG, North Kashmir, said snowfall was hampering rescue work. Army and police teams were at the HAWS camp site.

Officials said 400 Army jawans from different units were on a routine acclimatisation-training programme at the HAWS camp. As the men prepared for a training mission, a snowstorm swept the area and then an avalanche struck. While most soldiers scrambled to safety, 34 were trapped in the snow.

Last April, seven soldiers were killed when their post in Shamsbari, Kupwara, was swept away by an avalanche.

Gulmarg has been witnessing heavy snowfall since Friday around six feet of snow has accumulated in the resort town.

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