Hopes are fading for the 139 Pakistani soldiers and civilian contractors buried by an avalanche near the disputed Siachen glacier in Pakistani-administered Kashmir. It engulfed a military camp 15,000 feet above sea level on April 7, and in some places, the snow is said to be 80 feet deep.
Hundreds of troops, as well as villagers equipped only with shovels, sniffer dogs and helicopters have been involved in the rescue effort, but it has been severely hampered by bad weather. It was reported to be the worst avalanche in the area for 20 years.
Disputes over Kashmir have twice brought India and Pakistan to war, and the Siachen glacier has been dubbed the world’s highest battlefield. In 2010, 24 Pakistani soldiers died there in an earlier avalanche.
During the First World War, thousands of soldiers were killed by avalanches in the Tyrol during the struggle between Italy and Austria. On some occasions, they were started accidently by artillery explosions, but both sides also deliberately used them as a weapon. (See also my blog of Feb 18, 2010.)