Srinagar, Jan 19: A massive rescue operation continued for the second day on Saturday at Khardung La pass, the world's highest motorable road in Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir, where two trucks carrying 10 civilians were buried under over 20 feet snow on Friday morning.
So far bodies of five people have been recovered and searches for remaining five was going on when the reports last came in despite below freezing temperature, official sources said.
Meanwhile, the Meteorological department has issued a fresh warning of moderate to heavy snowfall in Jammu and Kashmir, including Ladakh, during the next five days starting from Saturday.
Governor Satpal Malik, former chief minister Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti have expressed grief over the loss of lives.
Sources said personnel from different agencies are busy in search operation to rescue five people who are still missing after they were buried under the snow avalanche. Five bodies of victims were so far recovered till Friday night.
A defence ministry spokesman giving details about the incident said two trucks carrying 10 civilians were buried under an avalanche of about 20 feet depth, approximately 800 metres from Khardungla Top towards South Pullu on Friday morning.
He said Army detachment at Khardungla Top was informed at about 0745 hrs by the two civilian drivers.
The spokesperson said immediately on receipt of this information all resources of the Fire & Fury Corps were activated. Army teams deployed near the incident site swiftly moved and commenced the search & rescue operations. Troops deployed at South Pullu & North Pullu were also moved to the incident site.
Simultaneously, the Army Aviation helicopters were pressed into action to move the highly trained avalanche rescue teams of the Army called “Avalanche Panthers Teams” from Siachen Base Camp and North Pullu.
These teams are equipped with specialised avalanche rescue equipment, medical equipment and avalanche rescue dogs, which are being utilised in the search and rescue operations.
Army Aviation helicopters were also used to move the Deep Search Radars which can detect human beings through snow. Medical teams along with doctors and nursing assistants , heating blankets, medical equipment and warm clothing were moved to the avalanche site from the Army Hospital at Hunder.
He said Lt General YK Joshi, GOC Fire & Fury Corps personally carried out an aerial assessment of the incident and issued necessary directions for the smooth conduct of the rescue operations.
The rescue operations are still in progress, he said adding since the Run Out Zone of the avalanche is about 1100 metres down the steep hill side the operations may take some time.
GOC, Fire & Fury Corps has assured the civil administration of complete support during the rescue operation, he said.
“Tunnels under ZojiLa, KhardungLa, Razdan, Sadna & Sinthan passes, a tunnel to connect Keran in North Kashmir & under Peer ki galli on the Mughal road. These are vital strategic links to stop areas getting cut off in winter, National Conference (NC) vice president Omar Abdullah said in a tweet.
“The tragic deaths of motorists swept away by an avalanche while attempting to drive across a snowbound KhardungLa once again highlights how important tunnels are under strategically important passes”, he said.
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president in a tweet said “Saddened to hear about the loss of lives because of the avalanche in Khardungla, Ladakh . Prayers for the families of the departed”. (UNI)