Himachal Pradesh avalanche: Three days after disaster, five army jawans still untraceable; search operations continue

Six jawans of the Army's 7 JAK Rifles — four from Himachal Pradesh, one each from Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir — were buried under the avalanche that occurred near the Shipki La border outpost in Himachal Pradesh's tribal Kinnaur district around 11 am on Wednesday.

Press Trust of India February 24, 2019 12:51:34 IST
Himachal Pradesh avalanche: Three days after disaster, five army jawans still untraceable; search operations continue

Shimla: Five army jawans, who were trapped in an avalanche that struck near Shipki La on Sino-India border in Himachal Pradesh three days ago, were still untraceable, officials said on Saturday.

Six jawans of the Army's 7 JAK Rifles — four from Himachal Pradesh, one each from Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir — were buried under the avalanche that occurred near the Shipki La border outpost in Himachal Pradesh's tribal Kinnaur district around 11 am on Wednesday.

The body of one of the jawans, Havaldar Rakesh Kumar, was recovered the same day while the five others were still missing.

About 220 Army and 30 Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) jawans restarted search and rescue operation to trace the five jawans on Saturday at 7 am, Kinnaur district public relations officer Mamta Negi said. She said two teams from Jammu and Kashmir and a sniffer dog have also been brought at the spot for search operation but the buried Army men have still not been found.

According to a defence spokesperson, specialised rescue dogs, rock drills and chain saws have been deployed into the search operation. The track leading to the avalanche site is under heavy snow, he said. Due to the concerted efforts of the army and the Border Road Organisation (BRO), the track has been partially cleared, he added.

The search and rescue operations are being closely monitored by the Headquarters Western Command, he said.

Lieutenant General PM Bali, Chief of Staff, Headquarters Western Command, visited the site of avalanche Saturday and assured that all efforts were underway for the search of the missing Army persons.

Expressing dismay at "slow" pace of rescue and search operation, Himachal Congress president Kuldeep Singh Rathore urged Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur to take up the matter with the defence minister and carry out the operation more intensively.

On Friday, the last rites of Havaldar Rakesh Kumar were performed with full military honours at his native Ghumarpur village in Bilaspur district, a defence spokesperson said. The Army, civil and police officers paid homage to Kumar in Kinnaur before airlifting his body to Bilaspur at 12.10 pm on Friday, officials added.

Kumar's mortal remains were consigned to flames in Bilaspur district by his son, Manish, they said. Thousands of people, including from neighbouring areas, paid their last respects to Kumar at the Ghumarpur village crematorium.

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