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Army officer, 4 of family killed in Kashmir avalanches

Tragedy struck Kashmir on Wednesday when two massive snow avalanches swept away a Territorial Army camp and a house leaving four members of a family and an army officer dead in Sonamarg and Gurez Valley respectively.

Police said the first avalanche struck at 4.30am in Budugam village in the Gurez valley of Bandipora district when the family was in deep sleep. The avalanche swept away the house and four members of the family were buried alive under the snow.

The deceased have been identified as Habibullah Lone, his wife Azizee Begum, their daughter Gulshan Bano and son Irfan Lone. Civil and police administration officials immediately rushed to the spot and launched the rescue operation.

After hectic efforts, the rescuers were able to retrieve the bodies from the mounds of snow.

“The area is covered in six to seven feet of snow. This entire Tuleel belt of Gurez is avalanche prone. We have already issued avalanche warning to the people,” Sheikh Zulfikar Azad, Senior Superintendent of Police, Bandipora, said.

The second avalanche struck the 115 Territorial Army Camp in Sonamarg at 5.45am. Such was the intensity of the avalanche that it swept away the barracks housing the soldiers.

Official sources said there were eight to 10 soldiers in the barracks when the avalanche rolled over them. Except one Army Major, all soldiers were safely rescued by a specialised team. Police have identified the deceased soldier as Major Amit Sagar of 115 Battalion of the Territorial Army.

“We lost one soldier in the avalanche. However, all others were rescued. No one is missing,” said Colonel Rajesh Kalia, Defence Spokesperson at Srinagar.

Dozens of houses have suffered damages in the snowfall that has wreaked havoc across the valley.

In Kupwara, a labourer was killed and another got injured while clearing snow from the roof of a house.

“The weather office has forecast widespread rain and isolated incidents of heavy snowfall on January 25-28,” a government official said.