India avalanche
Soldiers carry rescue missions after two avalanches hit the North Indian state of Kashmir (File photo) REUTERS/Indian Army/Handout

Two avalanches in the north Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir led to the deaths of at least 20 people, most of whom were Indian Army soldiers. The incidents took place on the country's Republic Day on 26 January in the Gurez and Sonmarg sectors due to fresh snowfall across the state over the past four days.

According to local news channel News 18, search and rescue operations have managed to recover the bodies of 15 soldiers and five civilians from the snow in the Himalayan area.

In 2016, 14 soldiers were killed in two avalanches in Gurez and Sonmarg. A similar accident had claimed the lives of 16 in 2012. An avalanche that hit a military camp in the Khilanmarg area near Gulmarg had trapped at least 15 army personnel in 2010.

Authorities have issued disaster warnings as the heavy snowfall has cut off roads, disrupted power and communication lines, and forced the evacuation of hundreds of residents. Kashmir also happens to be a popular destination for mountaineers and tourists.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed grief over the human loss and said measures were still being taken to locate those missing. "Deeply saddened at the death of our Veer jawans in an avalanche in Kashmir. Have directed the authorities for speedy search and rescue ops," he tweeted.