17 soldiers dead, 53 rescued in Kashmir avalanche

Massive avalanche plows into Indian army training center at ski resort town.

blizzard red cross 311 (photo credit: AP)
blizzard red cross 311
(photo credit: AP)
SRINAGAR, India — A massive avalanche plowed into an Indian army training center at a ski resort town in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Monday, killing 17 soldiers and critically injuring 17 others.
The avalanche slammed into the army's High Altitude Warfare School at about 11 a.m. and swept away the soldiers during a training session, said army spokesman Col. Vineet Sood. It was the worst avalanche in the area in many years, he said.
Seventeen bodies were found and 53 troops were rescued about six hours after the speeding mass of snow and ice struck the center high on a Himalayan slope, senior police officer Qayoom Manhas told The Associated Press.
Manhas said that of those rescued, 17 required emergency medical care.
About 70 troops were taking a skiing test when the avalanche came crashing down, he said.
Rescue efforts involving army, police and civilian officials were "very timely, swift and coordinated," Manhas said.
The accident occurred near Gulmarg, a ski resort about 50 kilometers northwest of Srinagar, the main city in Indian Kashmir, said Sood.
About 400 people, including 30 civilian workers, were at the training center, but the avalanche hit only one portion of the facility.
Incessant snow and rain complicated rescue operations.
G.M. Dar, a tourist official in the area, told the AP about 400 tourists skiing in Gulmarg were safe.
Frequent rain and heavy snowfall often trigger avalanches andlandslides in Kashmir, blocking roads and cutting off tourist resortslike Gulmarg. Gulmarg is also close to the Line of Control, a highlymilitarized cease-fire line dividing the Himalayan region of Kashmirbetween India and Pakistan.
The claim over Kashmir has caused two wars between the archrivals sincethey became independent from Britain in 1947. Hundreds of thousands ofsoldiers are posted along either side of the Line of Control.
Last year in April, an avalanche hit an Indian army post in a separateregion close to the de-facto border with Pakistan, killing sevensoldiers and injuring at least eight others.