The avalanche occurred near the 17,500-foot (5,334 meters) high Nathu La pass and buried two cars in the early hours of Tuesday. The pass is the main route for travelers to enter India from Tibet through Sikkim state. Rescue teams recovered four bodies on Tuesday, including three Indian Army personnel and one civilian driver. The search operation unearthed three more bodies late Wednesday evening as rescuers feared that some people may still be trapped under snow and debris.
Army helicopters have been deployed to lift out injured people while a medical team was sent with life support equipment to assist those rescued alive. According to reports, several army personnel were injured in the incident but are now out of danger due to timely help extended by rescue workers in the region. This is not the first time an avalanche has hit this region. Similar incidents have occurred many times before due to extreme weather conditions and heavy snowfall yearly during winter.
Avalanches occur when a layer of snow is dislodged and slides down the mountain. Because of global warming, more snow is falling in the Himalayas than ever before, increasing the risk of avalanches. India’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has warned that climate change could lead to even more danger due to rising temperatures and melting glaciers. The NDMA recommends implementing avalanche-specific hazard zoning maps so local governments can better prepare for potential disasters.
In addition, they recommend creating awareness campaigns about how people should deal with avalanches if one occurs in their region. They suggest avoiding high-altitude or steep slopes where possible and clearing away any debris that may be present near mountainside homes or other structures vulnerable to avalanche activity.
The accident site is near the Nathu La border post in Sikkim. The area is prone to landslides and flooding during monsoon season, which runs from June through September. In 2019, heavy rains caused flash floods that killed scores of people across India’s Himalayan region and left hundreds of thousands homeless. Nathu La has a long history as part of British India’s defense strategy on its borders with Tibet and China. After Indian independence in 1947, it remained closed until 2006, when it was reopened for trade between India and China. Tourists can also visit the post with permission from the local government authorities; however, due to increased security measures, only Indian citizens are currently allowed to enter this area.
The Indian government has taken steps to try and reduce the death toll from avalanches, including establishing an avalanche warning system. The warnings are issued by a network of meteorological observatories in areas prone to severe snowfall. This network is designed to detect temperature or wind speed changes that can indicate an impending avalanche, allowing people living in the area time to take shelter or evacuate.
In addition, local authorities have distributed educational materials about staying safe during an avalanche and training sessions on avalanche safety measures and rescue techniques. With more knowledge and better preparedness, it is hoped that fewer lives will be lost due to avalanches in the future.