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Wednesday, Aug 21, 2019

Resilience, will power shine through snow in Lahaul and Spiti as rescue ops draw to a close

Stories of some ordinary people who showed extraordinary courage to save others emerged as the six-day marathon rescue operation came to an end.

india Updated: Oct 01, 2018 10:27 IST
Naresh K Thakur
Naresh K Thakur
Hindustan Times, Dharamshala
Padma Wangchuk,81, walked alone for a day amid heavy snow to reach to safety after being stranded at Rohtang Pass.
Padma Wangchuk,81, walked alone for a day amid heavy snow to reach to safety after being stranded at Rohtang Pass. (HT Photo)
         

With the picturesque Lahaul-Spiti district in Himachal Pradesh reeling under worst September snowfall in nearly six decades, many stories of remarkable resilience, grit and heroism have emerged as the six-day marathon rescue operation came to an end on Saturday.

While many people had a miraculous escape, others survived because of their patience and inner strength. Among these were some ordinary people who showed extraordinary courage and risked their own lives to save others. Here are a few of such stories.

The lone survivor

Being in a condition which calls for panic and would even bring a youngster to his knees, octogenarian Padma Wangchuk remained resolute and walked alone one whole day to reach to safety.

Wangchuk, 81-year-old, was on his way to home in Lahaul-Spiti from Manali on September 22 when his bus got stuck at 13,050-meter Rohtang Pass.

The passengers started walking towards Koksar on Lahaul side. Here age took a toll on Wangchuk and he was left behind and lost his way. After an hour, Wangchuk realised he had deviated on a wrong route. He spent the night in a rock cave at Rohtang and started walking early morning the next day.

Wangchuk had walked for around 35-kilometre, amid heavy snow, without a halt and without a soul by his side, before reaching Sissu village on the evening of September 23.

His grandson Vicky Shashni said: “Dadu was able to do it just because of his resilience, grit and passion to reach home.”

Shera of Kullu

Shera motivated people to stay calm for four days until help arrived.
Shera motivated people to stay calm for four days until help arrived. ( HT Photo )

Sher Singh Thakur aka Shera, a resident of Kullu, was on a mountaineering expedition with a tourist from Kerala to 20,100 feet Yunam peak near Baralacha La pass when it started to snow on September 22.

Soon, he realised that it would get worse and started to descend. Shera saw many people and vehicles stranded at the 16,020-foot Baralacha La. He reached Patseo army camp and informed the officials about the situation in the mountains. Shera called his friends through a satellite phone to started rescue operation immediately and set towards Baralacha La alone.

He kept moving from one vehicle to other, motivating people and teaching them survival tricks until help arrived four days later.

Shera could not be contacted as he was still in Lahaul. Story of his brave act was narrated by survivors to the media at Manali, and also shared it on social media.

Rescuers on skis

In a daring operation on September 28, two professional skiers from Manali — Joginder Thakur and Praveen Sood — were called by the IAF to help rescue people stranded near Baralacha La where helicopters could not reach. The duo was airdropped at Baralacha La from where they skied five kilometres down to reach the stranded people, including a woman and a seven-year-old kid and brought them to safety.

Presumed dead, Nepali labourer wakes up

In another case, 55-year-old Sashi was among a group of 22 Nepali labourers going from remote Zanskar valley area to its administrative headquarters at Padum on September 20 but were caught in a snowstorm.

They lost the way and reached the Shingo La pass t 16,500 feet on the Himachal-Jammu & Kashmir border. After spending two days in a cave at Shingo La, they started walking without any food supplies.

On the way, Sashi fell unconscious. Presuming him dead, his companion gave him a burial and continued their journey.

After reaching BRO camp at Darcha, Sashi’s son Rajeev, who was in the other group, was informed about the death of his father. Not ready to believe, Rajeev along with some BRO jawans returned to the spot and found his father alive, though in critical conditions. Sashi is now recuperating at Kullu hospital.

First Published: Oct 01, 2018 10:21 IST

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