3 Dead,11 Trapped in Kashmir Avalanches

SRINAGAR, India (AP) -- Heavy snow has caused avalanches and landslides in the Himalayan region of Kashmir that have trapped 11 people and killed three, officials said Friday.

Rescue operations were being hampered for people trapped at a fire brigade station at southern Banihal area overnight, said top police officer S.P. Pani. The victims include six policemen, two firefighters and two prisoners.

Pani said the policemen had taken shelter in the station because it was historically untouched by avalanches in the mountainous area where landslides are common.

A man died in southern Kokernag area from an avalanche that hit his home Thursday evening while his wife was still trapped under snow, police said. Two other family members were rescued Thursday night.

Officials said a landslide also hit a key highway connecting the Kashmir Valley and Jammu region near southern Ramban area, killing two people.

Dozens were evacuated from high-risk areas following the heavy snowfall that disrupted power and communications as well as air traffic in Indian-controlled Kashmir, while cutting off the Kashmir Valley from India. Authorities issued a high-danger avalanche warning in many parts of the region.

Last month, 10 laborers were killed when an avalanche hit at a Himalayan mountain pass bordering China in Indian-controlled Kashmir. Rescuers took about a week to retrieve the bodies. Last year, 11 civilians died in an avalanche near the highly militarized Line of Control that divides Kashmir between Indian and Pakistan-administered areas.

Avalanches also have caused some of the heaviest tolls for the Indian and Pakistani armies camped near the de facto frontier dividing their territories.

In 2017, at least 20 Indian soldiers were killed in three avalanches, and in 2012, a massive avalanche in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir killed 140 people, including 129 Pakistani soldiers.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and is claimed by both in its entirety.

(KA)