A snowcutter clears the road after snowfall in Gulmarg on Monday. (PTI)
Srinagar, Feb. 9: An army jawan was killed but 13 others were pulled out safe when an avalanche struck a forward post in north Kashmir, hours after tons of falling snow buried 17 soldiers at Gulmargs elite High Altitude Warfare School.
The fresh avalanche struck the Rekha post near Nachya Pass in Tanghdar, about 145km from Srinagar, even as the Snow and Avalanche Studies Establishment (SASE) asked people to avoid movement in susceptible areas following the seasons first major snowfall on February 7.
Defence spokesman Lt Colonel J.S. Brar said the avalanche struck the Kupwara forward post at 2.45am. Our men swung into action immediately and launched a quick rescue operation and pulled out 14 soldiers. One of the boys succumbed to his injuries, he said.
Police sources said the area had received massive snowfall in the past few days, which had increased the threat of avalanches. It was a difficult operation but 13 soldiers were rescued and taken to hospital for treatment. Some of them are badly injured, an official said.
About yesterdays incident at Khilanmarg, more than 150km from Tanghdar, the defence spokesman said all the bodies had been found. Training has been stopped (at the school) and will resume when the situation improves, Brar added.
The spokesman said Captain Prateek, the 25-year-old officer named among the dead yesterday, was from Indore. So far as the injured soldiers are concerned, they are all out of danger.
A government official said 14 of the 17 injured soldiers had resumed duties and the remaining three had been admitted to the armys 92 Base hospital in Srinagar.
Official sources said the army had not taken preventive measures despite a warning from the avalanche studies establishment to vulnerable zones, including Khilanmarg.
An SASE avalanche warning note was circulated by the disaster management cell of Kashmir on February 7 putting Khilanmarg in the medium danger zone, an official said.
The army, however, does not have the luxury to restrict movement of jawans because of fear of infiltration across the Line of Control (LoC).
Dozens of militants had infiltrated the LoC last winter and many of them were later killed in encounters deep inside the ceasefire line. The army cannot lower its guard because of such incidents. After the Kargil war, there are specific directions to the army not to abandon posts during winter, which was the normal practice earlier, an official said.
A civilian was killed and six were injured in a landslide in Nawarundi village in Uri in north Kashmirs Baramulla district. Mohammad Yousuf Gojjar was killed when his house collapsed, district officials said. Landslides damaged four houses in the sector, the officials added.
Aamir Ali, who heads the governments disaster management cell, said the weather would improve in the next two days. But because of the likely improvement in the weather, the possibility of avalanches has risen. There is also possibility of snow and rain on February 12 and 13, Ali said.