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Himachal Pradesh Avalanche: Bad weather hampers search for trapped jawans

By PTI
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Shimla, Feb 21: Heavy snow, rain and sliding of glaciers on Thursday hampered the operation to search for five Army jawans trapped in the snow avalanche near Shipki La on Sino-India border in Himachal Pradesh's Kinnaur district, officials said.

Six jawans of the Army's 7 JAK Rifles -- four from Himachal Pradesh, one each from Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir -- are feared dead in the avalanche that occurred near Shipki La border outpost around 11 AM on Wednesday.

Representational Image

General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF) and its machines could not reach the spot to carry out intensive search operation due to accumulation of several feet snow on the road, Kinnaur Superintendent of Police (SP) Sakshi Verma said.

The rescue teams are at standby as the area is lashed by incessant snow blizzards and snowfall, she said.

[Himachal Pradesh: Avalanche hits Kinnaur; 6 Army jawans feared dead]

As per GREF authorities, Tinku Nalla block on the National Highway 5 will open by Friday evening, she said, adding that subsequently the GREF might reach the spot with its machinery to carry out intensive search.

The Army jawans deployed at the Shipki La border post kept on trying to reach the spot by making efforts to clear the snow to carry out search operation, she added.

Due to the bad weather, the Kullu district administration has ordered all educational institutions to remain close on Friday, officials said. Kullu District Magistrate Yunus has advised the local people and the tourists not to venture in sensitive areas near snowbound hills and nullahs in view of prediction of more snowfall and rain in the coming days.

[2 killed in J&K avalanche as rain, snowfall lash north India]

Some glaciers have also slid in the three nullahs located in the area, making it more difficult to carry out the rescue operation, the SP added. One of the glaciers slid at Shipki La on Thursday morning, Kinnaur District Public Relations Officer Mamta Negi said, adding the Army was waiting for the weather to clear to restart the intensive operation.

The search and rescue operation for the missing Army jawans was adversely affected as Pooh witnessed 4 to 5 inches snowfall whereas more snowfall occurred at Shipki La and its adjoining areas on Wednesday night, Negi said, adding it has been raining heavily at the spot since morning.

The body of one of the Army jawans was recovered on Wednesday itself, but there was no trace of five others. The deceased jawan was identified as Rakesh Kumar, 41, a resident of Ghumarpur village in Bilaspur district of Himachal Pradesh. Five Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) jawans were also injured in the avalanche. They have been identified as Belangeen, Rajneesh Kumar, Mohammad Ishan, Rambaran, Tele Tek Chand, Army sources said.

When the avalanche descended rapidly down from the mountainside near Shipki La, 16 Army and ITBP jawans had gone towards the border post from Namagya in order to repair a damaged water supply line. While eight ITBP jawans were on the hill overseeing the water supply line, the Army jawans were standing down the hill, the sources said.

Six Army jawans were buried alive. One of them was rescued, but he succumbed to injuries subsequently. The Army has not issued any official statement so far regarding this unfortunate incident.

PTI

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