15 soldiers dead, 53 rescued in Kashmir
SRINAGAR: At least 15 soldiers have been killed and 17 others critically injured after a massive avalanche hit an Indian army training center at a ski resort town in Indian-controlled Kashmir.
Senior police officer Qayoom Manhas tells The Associated Press the bodies of 15 soldiers have been found and 53 troops have been rescued six hours after the speeding mass of snow and ice struck the center high on a Himalayan slope.
Manhas says 17 of those rescued needed emergency medical care. Rescuers are looking for two more soldiers missing and feared buried under the snow.
The accident occurred near Gulmarg, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) northwest of Srinagar, the main city in Indian Kashmir.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
SRINAGAR, India (AP) — A massive avalanche hit an Indian army training center at a ski resort town in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Monday, 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 under way at Gulmarg, a ski resort about 30 miles (50 kilometers) northwest of Srinagar, the main city in Indian Kashmir, said army spokesman Col. Vineet Sood.
The avalanche hit a training center at the army's High Altitude Warfare School at about 11 a.m. and swept away soldiers during a training session, 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 center, but the avalanche hit only one portion of the facility, he added.
"We have activated all resources to rescue the buried soldiers," Sood said, adding 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, told The Associated Press about 400 tourists skiing in Gulmarg were safe. The avalanche hit the army center, located on a high slope, about 2 miles (3 kilometers) from the main town.
Frequent rain and heavy snowfall often trigger avalanches and landslides in Kashmir, blocking roads and cutting off tourist resorts like Gulmarg. Gulmarg is also close to the Line of Control, a highly militarized cease-fire line dividing the Himalayan region of Kashmir between India and Pakistan.
The claim over Kashmir has caused two wars between the archrivals since they became independent from Britain in 1947. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers are posted along either side of the Line of Control.
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.