An air pocket may have helped Lance Naik Hanamanthappa Koppad survive while buried under 35 feet of snow for almost a week at the Siachen glacier in Jammu and Kashmir before being miraculously rescued by the army two days ago.
Siachen veterans said the window of survival at those heights - Koppad was trapped in an avalanche at 20,500 feet - was barely two to three days.
But a pre-fabricated structure at the Sonam post may have collapsed in a manner that created an air pocket, providing Koppad enough air to keep going for six days - nothing less than a miracle at those frigid heights – they added.
Soldiers deployed at the highest battleground in the world where temperatures regularly plunge to -55 degree Celsius are trained at the Siachen Battle School to look for air pockets and know how to clear the snow near the nose and the mouth so that they can keep breathing.
Army officers said a powerful will to survive was another critical factor that helped the soldier to keep going. “He fought hard for his survival. He didn’t give up. Else, he would have perished too,” said a senior army officer.
Sources also said the 33-year-old soldier, battling for his life at the Army’s Research and Referral Hospital in Delhi, was physically the toughest among the 10 men deployed at the post. Rescuers found five bodies right next to him. No one else from the team survived.
Watch | Nation prays for Siachen survivor’s recovery
But despite the dramatic rescue mission, another miracle may be required in the Delhi hospital, where Koppad slipped into a coma late on Tuesday and continued to be in a critical condition.
A team of four super specialists is monitoring his vital signs round-the-clock. The big worry is acute renal failure related to the crush syndrome expected when people are trapped in an avalanche for a long time.
The odds are stacked against him but the nation is pinning its hope on his fighting spirit to see him through.