11 dead, 50 trapped in Indian avalanche

A massive avalanche hit an Indian army training centre at a ski resort town in Indian-controlled Kashmir, killing at least 11 soldiers and trapping nearly 50 others.

Fifteen soldiers, all in need of emergency medical care, were found during the search and rescue operation at Gulmarg, a ski resort about 30 miles northwest of Srinagar, the main city in Indian Kashmir, said army spokesman Colonel Vineet Sood.

The avalanche hit a training centre at the army’s High Altitude Warfare School at about 11am and swept away soldiers during a training session, Col Sood said. It was the worst avalanche in the area in many years, he said.

About 400 people, including 30 civilian workers, were at the training centre, but the avalanche hit only one portion of the facility, he added.

“We have activated all resources to rescue the buried soldiers,” Col Sood said, adding that incessant snow and rain were hampering rescue operations.

Farooq Ahmed, a top police officer in Kashmir, said casualties could rise and joint rescue teams of police, army and tourism officials had reached the spot where the avalanche struck.

G.M. Dar, a tourist official in the area, said about 400 tourists skiing in Gulmarg were safe. The avalanche hit the army centre, located on a high slope, about two miles from the main town.

Frequent rain and heavy snowfall often trigger avalanches and landslides in Kashmir, blocking roads and cutting off tourist resorts such as Gulmarg.

Gulmarg is also close to the Line of Control, a highly militarised ceasefire line dividing the Himalayan region of Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

Last year in April, an avalanche hit an Indian army post in a separate region close to the de facto border with Pakistan, killing seven soldiers and injuring at least eight others.


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