ISLAMABAD / SKARDU: Rescuers searching for 138 people buried under a huge avalanche at an army camp in Gyari sector of Siachen glacier are concentrating their efforts on five points at the site, the military said on Tuesday.
A huge wall of snow crashed into the remote base high in the mountains early on Saturday morning, smothering an area of one square kilometre.
Experts say there is little chance of finding any survivors at the place which is at an altitude of around 4,000 metres.
Despite harsh conditions, the military said efforts had intensified, with 452 people, including 69 civilians, taking part — up from 286 late on Monday — aided by mechanical earth movers, bulldozers and excavators, and work was focusing on certain key areas.
“Five points have been identified on the site where rescue work is in progress,” it said in a statement.
“Two points are being dug with equipment while three points are being dug manually.”
Photographs released by the military showed diggers and rescuers at work on an almost featureless expanse of dirty grey snow and ice, with no trace visible of the camp that had been the 6th Northern Light Infantry headquarters.
The number of those believed missing in the disaster rose to 138 as the military released an updated list naming 127 soldiers and 11 civilians.
They include a lieutenant colonel, a major and a captain.
Manzoor Hussain, president of the Alpine Club of Pakistan, said the camp had probably been hit by a chunk of glacier that split from the main mass.
He said there was “no possibility” of anyone surviving and warned efforts to find those buried under the mass of snow using specialist equipment would become harder.
“It is becoming difficult to locate people through thermal imagery camera and infra-red system because by now probably there would be no body temperature under the snow,” he told AFP.
Col (retd) Sher Khan, a mountaineering expert, suggested the devastation might have been caused by a landslide rather than an avalanche.
“For me it was a huge landslide provoked by a cloud burst, not an avalanche. In this case a huge flood of water is coming down from the sky and creates a lot of mud and loose earth on the mountain. Mostly boulders, mud and water ran down the mountain.”
He said several days of freezing temperatures would have hardened the mass of snow, mud and boulders, making digging more difficult.
Specialist teams from the United States, Switzerland and Germany have arrived in the country to help with the search.
A security official said the US team had not reached the site due to poor weather and ten foreign experts were waiting for weather clearance to proceed to Gyari.
According to the Met Office, snowfall is expected in Siachen and adjoining areas over the next two days. —AFP/PPI