Five soldiers were reported missing in north Kashmir’s Gurez and Nowgam sectors after heavy snowfall triggered avalanches in the region. The Army has started rescue operations and pressed specialised teams into the operation.
“Two soldiers slipped down the slope in Nowgam sector and three soldiers went missing from a forward post in Kanzalwan sub-sector (Gurez sector) during heavy snowfall in the past 24 hours,’’ Defence spokesperson Colonel Rajesh Kalia said.
He said search and rescue operations are underway. “We have shifted latest equipment to the areas to track the missing soldiers.’’
The upper reaches of Kashmir Valley have been receiving heavy snowfall from Monday. On Sunday evening, the Met department as well as the Army’s Snow Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE) had warned of avalanches in the upper regions of the Valley, especially on the Line of Control where Army personnel are deployed. Both the incidents of soldiers going missing took place near the LoC.
The Army has a full-fledged unit of the SASE in Kashmir with 40 observatories in various locations. The SASE regularly issues warnings and alerts to Army formations and units deployed in high-altitude areas and along the LoC.
Gurez valley is located in north Kashmir’s Bandipora district. Of late, there is heavy deployment of forces in the area to stop militants from infiltrating into the Valley. Gurez remains cut-off from the rest of the Valley for six months due to heavy snowfall.
The Nowgam sector, too, is close to the LoC and receives heavy snowfall during winters. The Army has in the recent past foiled several infiltration attempts in the sector.
To bring down casualties of security personnel during winters, the Army units have been provided with the latest equipment and devices to track soldiers trapped during avalanches or snowstorms. However, casualties continue to take place in Siachen and other areas. Last year, 20 soldiers lost their lives in avalances and snowstorms. In 2016, the number was around 11.