Furious relatives of more than 40 soldiers feared frozen to death in the Chilean Andes raged at military officers on Saturday for leading dozens of ill-equipped teenage recruits into a blizzard.
Sixteen bodies have been recovered from snow-bound Antuco volcano near the &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/main/2002/12/27/41425.html ' target=_blank>Argentine border and an estimated 29 soldiers were still missing when rescuers with snow plows and dogs ended their fourth day of searching. Most of the victims are teenage recruits from poor families, who enlisted just a month ago and whose regiment went on a mountain training exercise without proper gear for an early-winter storm that blinded and disoriented the group.
Army Commander in Chief Juan Cheyre also blamed the officers who led the soldiers on a march into danger instead of riding out the &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/accidents/21/97/385/14792_storm.html ' target=_blank>storm in a mountain shelter. There were no officers among the missing or the dead.
Local media said it was the worst peacetime military disaster ever in Chile, reports Reuters.
Twenty-one bodies have been found so far since Wednesday's storm, the army said Saturday night. The military took advantage of the first clear day since the blizzard started to deploy nearly 150 men in the largest ground and air search so far.
Meanwhile, 112 soldiers who survived the storm, including seven women, were flown by helicopter to Los Angeles, 400 miles south of the capital, Santiago, from the mountain shelter where they had sought refuge.