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Pakistani rescuers search for up to 135 people trapped in avalanche

From Aliza Kassim, CNN
updated 5:50 PM EDT, Sat April 7, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Rescuers continue to dig at an outpost where up to 135 people were buried
  • Troops, bulldozers and sniffer dogs have been deployed
  • No deaths have been confirmed, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas says
  • The glacier has been a point of conflict between India and Pakistan

(CNN) -- Pakistani rescuers continued to tunnel around a Himalayan military outpost on the Siachen glacier, where up to 135 people were buried by a massive avalanche near the Indian border.

A blanket of rock and snow, covering one square kilometer, slid over the base near the northeastern city of Skardu early Saturday morning, according to a statement from the military.

"It's a very massive scale slide," said Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas. "They are under the slide but we haven't lost hope. The rescue work is on, and we are keeping our fingers crossed."

A total of 124 army soldiers and 11 civilians were housed at the outpost, having been employed in one of the world's highest elevation battlegrounds where a series of past conflicts with India have occurred.

The Pakistani military says the battalion headquarters had been situated in the mountainous location for two decades and had never before succumbed to such a disaster.

The rescue effort has since brought in heavy machinery flown from neighboring Rawalpindi. And as sniffer dogs and Pakistani troops using bulldozers worked on the ground, helicopters circled overhead.

Authorities published online a list of names of those buried, though they have not confirmed any deaths.

Abbas said the military had not been able to establish contact with anyone inside the base since the avalanche, but a rescue mission commander told him recoveries had been made.

The Siachen glacier is 18,000 feet above sea level and has been a point of conflict with neighboring India, which has maintained a year-round presence there since 1984.

Journalist Mukhtar Ahmad contributed to this report.

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