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135 People Feared Dead in Pakistani Avalanche


Rescue workers try to find the victims of a deadly avalanche in Pakistan, April 7, 2012.

Rescue workers try to find the victims of a deadly avalanche in Pakistan, April 7, 2012.

Up to 135 people, mostly Pakistani soldiers, are feared dead after a massive avalanche engulfed a high-altitude military complex in mountainous Kashmir near the Indian border early Saturday.

In a statement late Saturday, Pakistan's military said up to 135 people, 124 army soldiers and 11 civilians, were buried under the wall of snow more than 20 meters thick in the Siachen Glacier region, with no sign of life more than 12 hours later. Both Pakistan and India have military outposts in the region, known as the world's highest battlefield.

The military launched a huge all-day search on the remote 6,000-meter peak involving helicopters, search dogs, troops, doctors and paramedics, but the rescue operation was called off late Saturday as darkness set in and the weather worsened. The search is due to resume early Sunday.

Pakistan's High Commissioner in Britain, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, said about 150 people were in the military base at a time of the avalanche. The base is located in a high risk area where the inhospitable climate and avalanche-prone terrain have claimed more lives than gunfire.

The snowslide hit on the eve of a scheduled meeting between Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Sunday. It will be the first visit to India by a Pakistani head of state since 2005.

Pakistan and India each have thousands of troops stationed in Kashmir, which both nations claim in full. Territorial disputes over control of the rugged, mountainous region have sparked two wars between the nuclear-armed neighbors.

Since 1984, there had been skirmishes along the border until both sides agreed to a cease-fire in 2003.

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