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Rescuers perish in Neelum; 15 bodies found

December 01, 2012

A view of a landslide in Muzaffarabad area of Pakistan. — File Photo by Dawn

MUZAFFARABAD: Rescuers from the Pakistan army, civilian administration and local people recovered 15 bodies of soldiers and civilians who were buried under two avalanches over the past 48 hours in a remote snow-capped area of Neelum valley, an official said.

“By Saturday evening, the bodies of nine army personnel and six civilians have been retrieved from beneath the huge mass of snow and mud,” Neelum deputy commissioner Saqib Munir told Dawn on return from the site of the incident.

A junior commissioned officer (JCO) and two soldiers were hit by a huge mass of snow and mud near the Qasim post on Thursday.

The place is approached by more than eight hours journey on foot from Tejian village, some 127 kilometres northeast of here.

An army rescue party led by Captain Imran was sent to recover the missing army personnel after Friday prayers.

The army team was joined by over 24 people from Banthal and Domel villages situated near the Qasim post.

The DC said the rescuers themselves were hit by another avalanche when they had recovered two bodies.

“Eight army men and seven civilians were trapped beneath the avalanche,” he said. He said that fresh teams were sent to launch rescue operation and by Saturday evening, 15 bodies had been recovered, including that of Captain Imran.

“Thanks the weather was clear today but the rescue operation has to be stopped for the safety of rescuers after the sunset,” he said.

Mr Munir said the rescue operation would resume on Sunday to recover the remaining bodies of two soldiers and one civilian. He said all six dead civilians belonged to Banthal village whereas the one still missing was a resident of Domel village.

“The local people have always cooperated with the army and it was under the same spirit that they had gone to recover the missing soldiers on Friday,” he said. He said funerals of the victims would be offered in Sharda at 11am following which the bodies would be dispatched to their native areas.