Nine civilians were on Friday rescued alive in a joint operation from the avalanche hit famous north Kashmir health resort of Sonamarg.The civil administration had on Thursday approached the army for assistance in rescuing missing civilians who had taken shelter under a bridge to save themselves.
"However, heavy snow fall, major avalanche activities in the area thwarted all efforts of the army to reach the distressed villagers," a defence spokesman said on Friday evening.
"Braving all odds, the soldiers tried to locate the villagers with an army aviation helicopter. However, the blizzard was so severe in the area that this attempt was also abandoned," he said.
"The efforts to locate the individuals recommenced today once weather opened up. Army and civil administration requested the Air Force for helicopters. Air Force pilots with excellent navigational skills and with the help of specialised troops on board finally were able to locate the villagers," the spokesman said in a statement.
"However, it was found that in addition to the two stranded villagers there were seven more villagers who were present in the area. As winching of all the nine villagers was impossible, Maj Khati who was in the Air Force helicopter was dropped at the site near the Shitkari Bridge. He gathered all the villagers, prepared a make shift helipad by beating snow, where the helicopter landed and all villagers were rescued by carrying out three sorties."
"Wing Commander Vikram Singh and Flight Lieutenant Ranjeet Desai of the Air Force were instrumental in carrying out the rescue."
"At Sonamarg they were given immediate first aid for cold injuries and were provided hot refreshments. The civilians who were without food and water for over three days and badly shaken by the ordeal thanked Allah, Air Force and the Army for their dedication and devotion."
"The civilians after initial management at Sonamarg were further evacuated for specialised medical treatment," the statement said.
"Nine civilians have been rescued from snow-bound Sonmarg area this morning with the assistance of the army," Coordinator of Natural Disaster Management Cell Aamir Ali said.
Ali said three government employees had started from Sonamarg, 85 km from Srinagar, to Ganderbal by foot on Wednesday but two of them went missing following heavy snowfall and avalanches at some places along the route.
"Only one of them managed to reach Ganderbal and informed the administration about the two missing persons. However, the missing persons managed to contact the authorities through a phone call and informed that they had taken shelter under Shitkari bridge," he said.
Snow avalanches hit Sonamarg area on Wednesday evening and in one incident, three army personnel were killed while six others were injured.
Meanwhile, hope of finding any survivors among the three missing army personnel in Gurez sector of Bandipora district faded away.
The three army personnel were guarding the sentry post at the workshop of 109 Infantry Brigade when an avalanche struck on Wednesday night. The sentry post is buried under 18 feet of snow and inclement weather has been hampering the search operations.
So far, 13 bodies of army personnel have been recovered in Gurez while 13 troopers were rescued.
Sixteen army personnel, including five officers, were killed in the two avalanches in Ganderbal and Bandipora districts of Kashmir Valley.
With inputs fom PTI