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Killer avalanches hit Indian-held Kashmir

Srinagar (AFP): Avalanches killed five people in Indian-held Kashmir on Wednesday, four members of a family whose home was buried under snow and a soldier stationed at a military base.

The four family members died when an avalanche ripped through the small village of Badugam in the Gurez area, close to the unofficial border with Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, while they were asleep in their home.

Police and rescuers managed to pull an 18-year-old from the mounds of snow but he was the sole survivor.

“The avalanche struck the village at 4:00 am, killing four members of a family. One survivor was rescued,” inspector general of police for the region, Javid Gillani, told AFP.

The victims were a 17-year-old boy, his 19-year-old sister and both their parents.

The soldier was killed when another avalanche hit an army barracks in the northern area of Sonmarg, said a military spokesman.

Indian-occupied Kashmir has been witnessing one of the severest winters in recent decades, with heavy snow across the territory and temperature dropping to minus seven degrees Celsius (19 degrees Fahrenheit).

Meteorologists have forecast more heavy snow across the territory over the next three days.

Authorities had already issued avalanche warnings, advising residents in mountainous areas not to venture out.

Police last week evacuated 80 villagers from Waltengoo Nar — where dozens were killed after a series of avalanches hit the area in 2005 — in the south of the territory.

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