At least four soldiers and two civilian porters have been killed after an avalanche hit the Siachen Glacier in Indian-administered Kashmir.
The avalanche struck a group of eight soldiers patrolling near a post at a height of 5,485 metres (17,995 feet) in the northern part of the Himalayan glacier on Monday, Indian army spokesmen said.
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A search and rescue mission pulled eight people from the snow and they were later airlifted to a military hospital, according to the local media.
“Despite best efforts, six casualties, which includes four soldiers and two civilian porters, succumbed to extreme hypothermia,” spokesman Colonel Rajesh Kalia told the AFP news agency.
Lieutenant Colonel Abhinav Navneet, another army spokesman, said the two surviving soldiers were undergoing treatment.
He added that an army post was also hit by the avalanche but no fatalities were reported there.
The world’s highest battlefield
India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said he was “deeply pained” by the incident.
“Deeply pained by the demise of soldiers and porters due to avalanche in Siachen. I salute their courage and service to the nation. My heartfelt condolences to their families,” Singh tweeted.
The glacier is on the northern tip of the Line of Control that divides India and Pakistan-administered Kashmir. The two countries, which claim the Kashmir region in full, have deployed troops at Siachen.
On August 5, New Delhi stripped the Muslim-majority region of its special status and deployed additional troops, escalating tensions in one of the most militarised zones in the world.
Avalanches are common on the 700-square-kilometre (270-square-mile) glacier, where temperatures regularly fall to minus 60 degrees Celsius (-76 Fahrenheit).
The region has witnessed intermittent skirmishes for decades, but more soldiers have died from the harsh weather than combat at the world’s highest battlefield.
In 2017, at least 24 people, including 20 soldiers, were killed in a series of avalanches, while in 2012, a massive avalanche in Pakistani-administered Kashmir killed 140 people, including 129 Pakistani soldiers.