SRINAGAR, India - Avalanches triggered by unusually heavy snowfall killed at least six people in Indian Kashmir, as flimsy buildings caved in across the Himalayan valley, police said Wednesday.
The dead included two soldiers who were crushed by snow in Kargil, a mountainous area of the remote Ladakh region, while four others were killed by avalanches in the south of the state, according to Superintendent Imtiyaz Hussain.
After the bodies were recovered Wednesday, Hussain said three Nepalese labourers may also have died in the remote area of Kaksar, but police have not been able to reach the site as the terrain is difficult and the risk of further avalanches too high.
Police and army teams have begun rescuing people from other avalanche-prone areas and an unknown number of people have been hospitalised.
"We have rescued 50 people so far. Many areas have become inaccessible and communication lines are down," Hussain told AFP Wednesday.
The state government's disaster management authority had on Tuesday warned people across the mountainous periphery of the Kashmir valley to avoid moving along steep slopes.
Power supply in most of the Kashmir valley has also been cut off since Tuesday and mobile phone services have been severely affected after accumulated snow brought down transmission lines.
Avalanches in Kashmir during winter are not uncommon but heavy snowfall in the middle of March is rare, residents say.
Thirteen soldiers died in 2012 when an avalanche hit their base in Gurez near the de facto border that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan.
In February 2010 blizzards and avalanches killed 17 soldiers near the famous ski resort of Gulmarg where the Indian army's elite high altitude warfare school is also located.