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Kashmiri avalanches leave 16 Indian troops dead, 3 missing

(Xinhua)

09:37, February 24, 2012

SRINAGAR, Indian-controlled Kashmir, Feb. 23 (Xinhua) -- The death toll of the Indian army from the avalanche in Indian- controlled Kashmir has reached 16, while three others were still missing by Thursday evening, said officials.

The major avalanche hit the army camp at village Dawar of Gurez in frontier Bandipora district, around 115 km north of Srinagar city, the summer capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir, while a smaller one hit the post in Sonamarg of Ganderbal district around 84 km north of Srinagar.

At least 13 troopers were rescued so far after being caught under thick layers of snow in Gurez.

"The death toll in the avalanches has reached 16 and three are still missing." said Lt. Col. J. S. Brar, Indian Army spokesman in Srinagar. "The dead also include five Junior Commissioned Officers (JCO's)."

A major avalanche hit an army workshop in the Brigade headquarters in Gurez sector around 10:00 p.m. (local time) Wednesday, where 29 troopers were caught underneath the thick layer of snow.

Officials said the inclement weather conditions in Gurez area are hampering the rescue operations. At late afternoon Thursday, an army helicopter managed to fly a special team of the military rescuers to the area to carry out search.

"Rescue operations are being hindered by heavy snow and bad weather conditions," said Brar. "A specialized team from High Altitude Warfare School along with two avalanche rescue dogs has reached the spot."

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