NPR: The World's Deadliest Glacier

NPR: The World's Deadliest Glacier

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NPR: The World's Deadliest Glacier

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In Kashmir Conflict Zone, The Glacier Is The Enemy

Pakistani soldiers work Wednesday at the site of an avalanche that buried 140 people, including 129 soldiers, April 7 on the Siachen glacier. The incident revived debate in Pakistan over the price of patrolling the frozen area in the Kashmir region along the Indian border.

NPR brings us this story on The World’s Deadliest Glacier

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April 19, 2012

In the chill of the world’s highest combat zone lies the prospect of warmer relations. Pakistan’s army chief said Wednesday that there’s a need to resolve the conflict that has Indian and Pakistani troops facing off at frigid altitudes of up to 20,000 feet in the Himalayan Mountains. An estimated 3,000 Pakistani soldiers have died from the atrocious weather conditions since deployments on the Siachen glacier began in 1984.

Gen. Ashfaq Kayani conducted an aerial tour Wednesday with President Asif Ali Zardari of the massive landslide that buried a battalion of Pakistani soldiers in their headquarters on the glacier. In a rare encounter with reporters afterward, Kayani said the standoff is costly in many ways and called for “peaceful co-existence” with India.

The Siachen disaster has revived a debate in Pakistan over the price of patrolling the frozen area that required a transport plane, a helicopter and a bone-crunching drive to reach.

The majestic peaks are worth the price of admission, but a menace looms on the Siachen glacier: Along this northern tip of Kashmir, the emotional heart of the Pakistan-India conflict, troops from the two nuclear powers are “eyeball to eyeball” in unforgiving conditions.

Not a shot has been fired in years in this conflict, though. The main enemy in this craggy outpost 13,000 feet above sea level is the cold. More soldiers have been killed by the atrocious weather conditions — temperatures plunge to 50 below zero — than by combat.

Twelve days after rescuers descended on the icy scene of the latest avalanche, not a single person has been pulled out, dead or alive. The anguishing incident raises the question of whether the uninhabitable Siachen glacier is worth fighting for.

Rescue Efforts At Avalanche Site

Bulldozers have been operating around the clock to unearth the headquarters of Pakistan’s 6th Light Infantry Battalion and the 140 souls smothered beneath a square kilometer of ice and rock.

Soldiers in snowy white down jackets swarm the area that has suddenly turned springlike and thus more prone to fresh landslides. Members of the media escorted to the area are given a primer on what to do if there is a slide: “If you listen to long blast of whistles and the shouting ‘avalanche!’ you have to run, that way — look at that back [rock].”

Siachen commander Brig. Saquib Mehmood Malik explains that the landslide encased the 129 soldiers and 11 civilians under 200 feet of crushed granite and ice.

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