Srinagar: A Russian skier was killed while four of his accomplices were rescued after an avalanche hit the ski-resort of Gulmarg in Baramulla district on Friday.
Reports said that the Russian skier died on spot after being hit by an avalanche near Shinmai bowel on mount Affarwat. They added that four other skiers were rescued by a team of snow rescuers. The skier was identified as 30 year old Stanislav.
Pertinently, SASE had issued a medium danger avalanche warning for the Gulmarg region.
Sources said that the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism department, which looks after the alpine skiing expeditions in Gulmarg, has no expert at the location.
“The tourism department has no expert related to the sport in Gulmarg. There are some people who claim to be experts but unfortunately lack the basic experience in the skiing,” a source in tourism department said.
Earlier, last month a Swedish skier was killed in an avalanche while his compatriot was rescued alive on the same mountain.
“One skier identified as Daniel from Sweden, has died while police teams successfully rescued another Swedish skier named Benjamin who was also trapped under the avalanche," police had said.
Meanwhile, the Indian Army on Tuesday claimed to have rescued five foreign tourists, from the same area who had strayed from their skiing routes and lost their way due to lack of any guides during the expedition.
A press release from the Army said that the foreign tourists skied and trekked for hours but in absence of the guide were lost and not able to find their route back to their hotel. After hours of walking, they finally reached close to an Army Camp at around 9.30 pm in a bad state and were totally exhausted.
Meanwhile, the tourism department said that the Russian skiers ignored the warning.
Mehmood Ahmad Shah, the state tourism director, said the Russians ignored an advisory to stay away from the avalanche-prone area.
"They were informed and had been given in writing that they wouldn't go for skiing in the outbound areas as there was an avalanche warning."
Meanwhile, soon after the incident, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Gulmarg Development Authority (GDA) Muhammad Haneef Balki addressed media persons and claimed that the Russian skiers didn’t pay heed over the warning.
“We warned them before they decided to move ahead. But they ignored our warnings and went uphill,” he said.
He said that a group of over six skiers went ahead despite the warning and came under an avalanche at Hapat Khud.
Meanwhile, the tourism Department has expressed grief over the demise of skier who died due to the avalanche at Shinmai bowl in the upper reaches of Gulmarg.
Tourism Minister Tassaduq Mufti expressed grief over the skier’s death and conveyed his condolences to the bereaved family.
The deceased was a part of group of five skiers who moved to Shinmai bowl despite strict instructions by the department about the zones which are avalanche prone.
Out of five, ski patrol team rescued other four from the avalanche. The dead body was brought down and is undergoing postmortem at district hospital.
“The Russian group boarded the Gondola at around 11:30 am today and came under avalanche at 12 noon. The group had arrived at Delhi on 13 Feb and moved to Gulmarg on 14 February, 2018,” a spokesman of the tourism department said here.
The skiers had also signed an indemnity bond that they would not go into back country where avalanches occur on regular basis. However, the group still ventured into the area resulting in the tragic death of the skier.
To make the skiers aware about the avalanche prone areas, the department is organising Awareness Talk every Tuesday at 7 pm in which snow safety officer of the department Brian Newman provides them every information about the risks involved in certain areas. The awareness program receives good participation of the skiers especially foreigners, the spokesman added.
In order to propogate avalanche awareness, the department also puts Avalanche Talk live on its facebook. Besides, the department has also erected sign boards at different places at upper reaches of Gulmarg informing the skiers about the avalanche areas, he added.