Pakistan avalanche: archbishop leads memorial ceremony for thousands killed

This article is over 7 months old Disaster caused a widespread loss of life and ruined lives across central Asia. The victims are being remembered in ceremonies throughout May A memorial service has been…

Pakistan avalanche: archbishop leads memorial ceremony for thousands killed

This article is over 7 months old

Disaster caused a widespread loss of life and ruined lives across central Asia. The victims are being remembered in ceremonies throughout May

A memorial service has been held in honour of the 5 million people who died from an avalanche in remote Pakistan last year.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby led 1,000 of the dead’s relatives and survivors in a commemoration ceremony at the funeral chapel of the local cathedral in Mansehra, a town in the beautiful Karakoram mountain range.

The tragedy struck on 3 February as snow tumbled down Mansehra’s Changram Valley, sealing the climbers on their tents to plummeting sheets of ice and snow.

Tens of thousands of people died from the quake that devastated the western Pakistani province of Kashmir in September.

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The devastation was caused by an avalanche buried a part of a disputed mountain region rich in natural resources.

Archbishop Welby, whose own brother died in a similar catastrophe in the Himalayas in 1999, said it was a deeply personal tribute to those who lost their lives in the avalanche.

“Although you did not share the life of them, we are so grateful for your pain, pain that I am sure will continue with you until you rest in peace. It is the pain of loss which stands in the way of peace,” the archbishop said.

“May this message of peace find many echoes to help the others among us to manage their grief, their memories and their sorrow, and to help them to bear the shocking spectacle of death the afternoon of 3 February 2016.”

Church leaders said the loss of life was an enduring blow and prompted a crisis in the family, neighbourhood and local community. The archbishop said the service was to express thanks that those affected were not bereaved by violence or disease.

“Those who had to bear their own immediate and immediate loved ones’s death face the grief they have been blessed with time and time again, and that also includes those grieving for an entire extended family,” the archbishop said.

The explosion of the avalanche sent snow and ice slamming into the village and mountain communities below, crushing tents and cars and sweeping away victims beneath snow drifts eight metres (26ft) deep.

A French climber who survived was rescued, but rescued rescuers have seen scores of unrecovered bodies, a photograph of the 8 April aftermath showing workers of a contracting company working deep inside a crumpled van, still secured to the roof.

President Mamnoon Hussain said an exemplary memorial would be organised in future for the victims.

“Two years ago this area became silent, silent like a valley but our love for this area has not diminished and the foundations have not crumbled. We will make a commemorative site in wintertime and install a ‘place of remembrance’,” he said.

The disaster swept across several remote mountain regions, including two areas heavily populated by ethnic Kashmiri Hindus, which is claimed by India and Pakistan.

Residents from Kashmir’s Annapurna region witnessed one of the worst rescue operations of the last two decades.

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In 2015, the Pakistan army was forced to step in after authorities failed to reach Mian Bala camp, where more than 1,000 people were trapped by a landslide.

On 4 April, hundreds of locals travelled in a convoy to the valley where they helped rescue the victims of the avalanche and provided emergency assistance to the survivors.

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