Two Indian Army officers of a mountaineering team were killed when a snow avalanche hit their camp in Uttarakhand where torrential rains and landslides have left 66 people dead since Sunday, an official said on Tuesday.
The dead army officers, Lt. Col. Poornachandra of the 9 Para Field Regiment and Major Manish Gusain of the 11 Kumaon Regiment, were part of a a 44-member team on an expedition to the 7,756 metre high Mt. Kamet, army spokesperson Col. Om Singh said in New Delhi.
The expedition to Mt. Kamet was part of a selection process to scale the 8,163 metre Mt. Manaslu mountain in Nepal next year.
The spokesperson said a fierce avalanche in Chamoli district hit their expedition camp Sunday and buried it completely under snow.
Team leader Col. Ajay Kothiyal and nine other members who were camping in Chamoli had a narrow escape and managed to extricate themselves out of the mound of snow but "despite desperate efforts made by the survivors to extricate the rest of the team mates, Lt. Col. Poornachandra and Major Manish could not be rescued alive", Singh said.
As the weather deteriorated, the team descended to the advance base camp, leaving behind the bodies of the two officers, he said.
The bodies were recovered from Ghastoli village near the Mana pass Tuesday and will be airlifted to Joshimath when the weather clears.
"In the entire episode, a few personnel also sustained cold injuries and they have descended to Ghastoli," Singh said.
The Himalayan state has been lashed by heavy rains and landslides over the past three days causing deep cracks in the earth and virtually paralysing life.
According to an official spokesperson, "over 100 tourists who were returning after their sojourn to four popular Hindu pilgrimage destinations - Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri - are stranded in different areas".