10 Armymen confirmed dead in Siachen avalanche

New Delhi/Srinagar: The Central government on Thursday night confirmed the death of 10 soldiers in an avalanche strike at Siachen glacier.

“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 Modi said in a statement.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar also condoled the death of “brave soldiers who were martyred in the line of duty at Siachen.”

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“It is our duty to take care of their families,” the ministers added. On Thursday morning, hopes began to fade even as the Army intensified efforts to locate soldiers from the Madras Regiment who had gone missing since Wednesday’s massive avalanche in Siachen glacier. Even as the armed forces brought earth moving equipment and snow cutters to remove tonnes of ice that fell on the Indian post, officers gave up on the victims’ survival after remaining buried under snow for 48 hours in the world’s highest and coldest battlefield.

The rescue teams braved adverse weather and rarefied atmosphere to locate the missing men, in vain.

The prevailing temperatures on the glacier range from a minimum of minus 42 degrees Celsius at night to a maximum of minus 25 degrees Celsius during the day.

“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 D S Hooda, Commander, Northern Command.

The soldiers remained untraceable after an avalanche comprising huge blocks of ice and snow hit the army post at an altitude of 19,600 feet in the early hours of February 3.

The post was manned by one junior commissioned officer and nine soldiers. Though the post was fibre-reinforced and had oxygen, survival was ruled out.

This is the second human tragedy in the last two months after four men from 3 Ladakh Scouts were killed by an avalanche in the southern glacier in Siachen.

Rejects Pak help

Meanwhile, the Army rejected an offer of help from Pakistan Army, conveyed by its director general of military operations Maj Gen Amir Riaz. The latter had called up his Indian counterpart Lt Gen Ranbir Singh.

“Since our resources and teams are well placed and adequate, we said that we don’t need any help,” said an Army officer. When Pakistan had a similar tragedy in 2012 in which 130 Pakistan soldiers died, Islamabad too declined New Delhi’s offer of help.

Since 1984 when India occupied the dominating heights, close to 900 lives have been lost. Most of them died due to harsh climatic conditions and challenging terrain on the 76-km long glacier. Nevertheless, around 3,000 soldiers are deployed on the glacier.

Majority of the posts in Siachen are located at over 16,000 feet, where soldiers are posted for three months. The highest is the Bana post at around 22,000 feet, and the deployment is only for 30 days here because of treacherous terrain and climate.

Last year, on November 14, Captain Ashwini Kumar lost his life while 15 other soldiers were rescued after an avalanche struck a patrol party in the same area. On December 16, 2012, at least six Army soldiers were killed when a similar avalanche hit Hanif sub sector in Turtuk area of Siachen.

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