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Two polish skiers killed in snow avalanche in Gulmarg; 21 others rescued

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Baramulla: Two Polish skiers were killed while another skier escaped unhurt after a massive avalanche hit Hapatkhud Kangdori area of the ski-resort Gulmarg in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district on Wednesday.

An eyewitness tourist guide Tanveer Ahmad said that soon after the massive avalanche struck, local skiers and the rescue teams of the Tourism department, and Gulmarg Gandola rushed to the spot for the rescue operation.

“Two Polish skiers were killed in the avalanche while another miraculously escaped unhurt,” an eyewitness tourist guide said.

Police identified the deceased duo as Wasil Krzysztof Jerzy (43) and Grzech Adam Roman (45), both from Poland. The bodies of the deceased were brought down using a cable car and later shifted to Tangmarg hospital for medico-legal formalities.

A prominent skier Farhat Naik, who is presently in Gulmarg, said that there is the possibility that these Polish skiers had come to Gulmarg for the first time. “It is unfortunate they got killed in the avalanche today.”

Meanwhile, Baramulla Police in a statement said that they reached the spot with ski patrol teams of the Tourism department and were able to rescue 19 skiers while the bodies of both deceased skiers were retrieved which was shifted to the hospital for medico-legal procedures.

The Hapatkhud Kangdori area where the accident took place had been declared off-limits due to the possibility of an avalanche following heavy snowfall two days ago, the sources said.

At 12.30 pm, those fears came true when the gigantic wall of snow rolled down, trapping the group of mostly Polish and Russian tourists and two local guides.

“Three teams of 21 foreign nationals and two local guides went to Affarwat for skiing this morning. A snow avalanche struck Hapatkhud Kangdori around 12.30 pm,” Baramulla Senior Superintendent of Police Amod Nagpure was quoted as saying by PTI.

Asked if there was an avalanche warning for the area where the accident took place, Nagpure said an investigation has been ordered.

Two skiers died while the other 21 who were on the slopes when the avalanche struck were rescued, he said.

Several people saw the tragedy unfold.

“We saw the dance of death before our eyes. A 20 feet wall of ice fell on the skiers and they got buried under it. It’s all about nature’s fury,” All India Congress Committee member Deepak Chinchore from Karnataka who happened to be at the spot said.

Officials said the cable car which ferries tourists up the 14,000 ft Afarwat mountain was used for the rescue operations.

Videos of the avalanche, showing people running for their lives, circulated widely on social media.

The Russians rescued today were identified as Ekaterina, Maxim, Vladimir, Vasiliy, Engine, Leo, Nikita Mastryukov and Anna Chornyak, police said.

The Polish nationals were Rafat Kaqmaren, Narcin Wieklux, Eukasz Potaczewck, Tukasz Pasek, Katarzyna Filip, Marcin Raczyk, Barteomie Szkop, Bartosz Domagata, Adrian Anirowsu and Macie Kowalczyk.

Besides, three guides, Bartos from Poland and two locals, Fayaz Ahmad Sheikh and Mushtaq Ahmad Mir, were also rescued.

Snow avalanches are frequent in higher reaches of Kashmir during January and February, especially after fresh snowfall.

Kashmir witnessed heavy snowfall on January 29 and 30.

The last big avalanche in Gulmarg was on February 08, 2010 when 17 soldiers in an army camp were killed. (With additional inputs from PTI)

Photo/ Kashmir Images