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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 February, 2005, 15:46 GMT
A village wiped out by snow
By Altaf Hussain
BBC News, Srinagar

Bashir Ahmed
The government did not come to our rescue, says Bashir Ahmed
Bashir Ahmed is a primary school teacher in Viltengnar village in Indian-administered Kashmir, which has been buried under an avalanche that hit last Saturday.

He managed to escape but was unable to save his six children, three boys and three girls. His oldest child, Noor Jehan, was a girl of fourteen. All 13 members of his family died.

Bashir was home on the day. "There was a snowstorm at one-o-clock," he recalls.

"I came out of my home and saw a few people trapped under their homes."

Few survivors

Mr Ahmed rushed to a nearby field and called out to his neighbours.

We are a poor lot of people and have been treated like animals
Bashir Ahmed

"Shortly afterwards, there was another storm and the whole village was wiped out."

Only a few of the 150 houses in the village are still standing.

The survivors are fewer than those killed or missing. Many of them are dazed and unsure of what to do.

Residents of neighbouring villages have temporarily sheltered them in their homes.


But the bodies had to be left unattended in a few huts in the village - such was the chaos and confusion they were only buried on Wednesday, five days after the avalanche.

We are also human beings. If you expect magic from us, I am sorry
Javed Makhdoomi,
police inspector-general

Muslims generally bury their dead within hours of their passing.

Mr Ahmed breaks down while talking about the government's "apathy."

"Had there been a government, more of our people would have been saved. But the government didn't come to our rescue," he said.

The village was cut off from the nearest town, Kazigund, by thick snow.

Bodies in Kashmir avalanche
Many of the bodies could only be buried five days later

But Mr Ahmed says that the authorities could have dispatched help by helicopter.

"They didn't consider us worthy of attention. We are a poor lot of people and have been treated like animals."

The authorities, however, say it was impossible for a helicopter to land in the affected village on soft snow.

Inspector general of police, Javed Makhdoomi, says the police chief of Kazigund left for the affected village soon after receiving a message about the disaster.

"He waited for the snow to stop. It didn't. So, even though he wasn't fully equipped to meet the situation, he started travelling towards the village and was the first to reach it.

"We are also human beings. If you expect magic from us, I am sorry."

Police and troops were able to begin a proper rescue only on Tuesday, when an army helicopter dropped food packets and blankets.

Villagers say the chief district administrator has still not visited the village.

The state chief minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, surveyed the area from the air on Tuesday and Congress Party president, Sonia Gandhi, along with India's defence minister, Pranab Mukherjee, did the same on Wednesday.

But for the people on the ground, the gestures meant little.

See the heavy snowfalls in Kashmir

Cold kills hundreds in South Asia
23 Feb 05 |  South Asia
In pictures: South Asia snows
23 Feb 05 |  In Pictures
Snow paralyses Afghan villages
22 Feb 05 |  South Asia
Pakistan storms claim more lives
15 Feb 05 |  South Asia
Avalanches: A fatal attraction
29 Mar 00 |  In Depth

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