Air-borne ops to retrieve mountaineers’ bodies fail
The team had spotted the five bodies on Monday during a sortie in an IAF chopper. On Tuesday, the district administration framed a strategy to retrieve the bodies.Updated: Jun 05, 2019 23:41 IST
Two days after spotting the bodies of five missing mountaineers about 500 metres from the Nanda Devi peak, a rescue team on Wednesday called off operations to retrieve them due to bad weather and severe turbulence, Pithoragarh district officials said.
The team, comprising mountaineers from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), had gone in an Indian Air Force (IAF) chopper to retrieve the bodies at an altitude of about 5000 metres. But they could not be air-dropped on the mountain due to severe turbulence, they added.
The district administration now plans to send the team to the spot on foot keeping in mind the safety concerns in air-borne rescue operations, the officials said.
The team had spotted the five bodies on Monday during a sortie in an IAF chopper. On Tuesday, the district administration framed a strategy to retrieve the bodies.
“As per the strategy, an IAF chopper carrying the team left for the spot on Wednesday morning at 5am. However, after reaching the spot, it could not airdrop the team members due to severe turbulence,” said Vijay Kumar Jogdande, Pithoragarh district magistrate, over the phone.
He claimed that the chopper had conducted a sortie for about four hours before finally returning to the base at 8.50am.
“Due to safety concerns, we decided to abort any more sorties by the IAF chopper carrying the rescue team. We have now decided to send the team on foot to the spot to retrieve the bodies manually, which would take 15 days to one month,” he said, adding the plan was being discussed with ITBP officials.
“A week’s time will be given to the rescue team to give us a plan of their rescue operation. If it is feasible, they will be given the go-ahead,” he said.
“A National Disaster Response Force team will reach Pithoragarh to join the rescue efforts.”
Speaking on the difficulties to retrieve the bodies, district disaster management officer Prashant Kumar said, “It is not easy because the bodies are not lying on the surface but are embedded in snow. Also, the spot is at a height of about 5000m.”
The missing team, led by ace mountaineer Martin Moran from the UK, had three others from the same country, two from the US and one from Australia. One of them, a liaison officer, was an Indian. On Sunday, four British mountaineers were rescued from the Nanda Devi base camp. They were part of a bigger group of 38 mountaineers, which included the missing eight.
The eight had left for Nanda Devi expedition from Munsyari on May 13 and was scheduled to complete it on June 1.
The information about them missing was given by a porter, Mangal Singh, who made his way back from the Nanda Devi base camp on Friday to a Delhi-based adventure company, which then informed the administration about it.