SIACHEN/NAGPUR: For six days, army soldier Hanamanthappa was buried under 25 feet of snow in temperatures close to minus 40 degrees.
Late last night, a rescue team found him and was astonished to feel a faint pulse.
After an avalanche at the Siachen Glacier on February 3, Lance Naik Hanamanthappa and nine other soldiers were buried deep beneath the snow. A wall of ice, a kilometer wide and 800 metres high, came crashing down on their post.
Hanamanthappa was saved because he was trapped in an air bubble. He is stable and has been brought to the Army Research and Referral Hospital in Delhi.
“Recovering the soldier is nothing short of a miracle. A wall of snow as thick and hard as concrete had fallen on them,” Lieutenant General SK Patyal told media.
Hours after the avalanche, the base camp had received a radio message. When the rescuers found Hanamanthappa, they had expected it to be the soldier who had sent that message.
Five bodies have also been found after some 300 sorties and an intensive search operation at a height of nearly 20,000 feet, where it is difficult to walk, let alone dig.
Four more soldiers have not been found. “All other soldiers are regrettably no more with us,” said the officer.
The rescue, involving heavy equipment, thermal imagers and dogs, became particularly challenging because the snow turned into ice. Rescue teams had to battle frequent blizzards and work through low visibility.
The 10 soldiers were at their base on the Saltoro ridge in Siachen, at a height of 19,600 feet and close to the border with Pakistan, when the avalanche struck.
The Siachen Glacier at the northern tip of Kashmir is the world’s highest and coldest battlefield. More soldiers have died here because of the weather and difficult terrain than in battle. At least 869 officers and soldiers have been killed there since the mid-1980s.