Arunachal Pradesh: Bad weather impacts search for 2 missing mountaineers
The Indian Army informed on Wednesday that two advanced light helicopters and two Cheetah helicopters have been kept on standby
Inclement weather since past few days has impacted search and rescue efforts to locate two mountaineers from Arunachal Pradesh who went missing during an expedition close to the India-China border.
Tapi Mra, who climbed Mt Everest in 2009, and his assistant Niku Dao went missing on August 17 while attempting to scale the peak of Chiumo, located 6,890m (around 22,600 ft) above sea level close to the McMahon Line.
Due to the remote location of the mountain and lack of communication network, information about the missing mountaineers reached Seppa, the headquarters of East Kameng district, on August 29, 12 days after they went missing from an altitude of around 15,000 ft.
“There’s a motorable road till Beo village around four and half hours away from Seppa. From there, one has to walk another seven hours to reach Longchu village and another 7-8-day trek to reach the base camp of the mountain,” said PA Polumatla, deputy commissioner, East Kameng.
The private expedition had 13 members, including the two mountaineers and 11 porters. According to a porter who reached Seppa on Tuesday, both Mra and Dao started from Camp II (located around 15,000 ft above sea level) on August 17. But they have been incommunicado ever since.
The Indian Army informed on Wednesday that two advanced light helicopters (ALHs) and two Cheetah helicopters have been kept on standby. They will start aerial reconnaissance of the area, carrying one of the porters from the expedition, once the weather settles down.
“As soon as we learnt about the missing mountaineers, we contacted the Indian Army to help locate and rescue them. At present, four helicopters are ready at Tezpur in Assam. But they haven’t been able to fly due to heavy rains and very poor visibility in the area,” said Polumatla.
“Everything is ready, but on standby due to bad weather. If the weather permits, the helicopters will attempt to fly on Wednesday. But it seems unlikely as heavy rainfall is expected till Friday. The aerial search and rescue mission will start as soon as the weather clears,” he added.
In the meantime, a ground search and rescue team comprising 18 Indian Army members is expected to reach Seppa. The team, including three local mountaineers, will start for the mountain on Thursday.
“The ground search team may also face difficulties as heavy snowfall is expected in the area in the next 7-10 days. There’s also a chance of flooding in the rivers that fall along the route to the mountain,” Polumatla said.
“The Army’s highly trained and motivated special forces, and Arunachal Scouts teams are also being employed for the ground search operations in the challenging terrain of the expedition area,” said Lt Col AS Walia, PRO (defence) based at Tezpur in Assam.