Indian soldier buried by avalanche saved; 9 bodies recovered


SRINAGAR, India (AP) — An Indian soldier buried by an avalanche for six days in the Himalayan region of Kashmir has been found alive and pulled from the snow, along with the bodies of nine soldiers who died, officials said Tuesday.

The enormous avalanche slammed into an Indian army post last Wednesday and trapped the 10 soldiers on the northern end of Siachen Glacier, the highest point along the heavily militarized line of control between India and Pakistan. The army had said after the first day of searching that the chance of finding survivors was “very remote.”

However, soldier Hanamanthappa Koppad was was rescued Monday night from under at least 7 meters (25 feet) of snow, Indian military commander Lt. Gen. D.S. Hooda said. He was unconscious and in critical condition at the army’s hospital in New Delhi.

“We hope the miracle continues,” Hooda said. “Surprisingly, his oxygen levels seemed OK, and his heartbeat was there.”

Avalanches and landslides are common in Kashmir, which is claimed by both India and Pakistan and divided between them, making the ongoing military patrols at the 5,800-meter-altitude (19,000-foot-altitude) glacier particularly dangerous. More Indian and Pakistani troops have died from the grueling conditions than from hostile fire.

Last month, four Indian soldiers were killed by an avalanche while on foot patrol in the same region. In 2012, an avalanche on the Pakistan-controlled part of the glacier killed 140 people, including 129 soldiers.

Hooda described last week’s avalanche as “massive,” adding that “an entire mountain of rock-solid snow” measuring about 1 square kilometer (half a square mile) “fell on the post and buried it.”

The rescue and recovery operation was also difficult “under extremely hostile weather conditions,” he said.

Enduring freezing temperatures for days, dozens of rescuers used shovels and chainsaws to cut through the ice and snow to reach the buried soldiers.

Discussions between India and Pakistan on demilitarizing the Siachen Glacier have so far been unsuccessful.

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