More reports on: Indian Army

Siachen soldier found miraculously alive, now stable

09 February 2016

Lance Naik Hanamanthappa, who was miraculously found alive after remaining buried in snow for six days, was today evacuated to the army's base camp at the Siachen Glacier from where he was flown to Delhi's Research and Referral Hospital in a special air ambulance.

He will be brought to the Palam technical airport and airlifted to the hospital, Army sources said. His medical condition is still critical, but stable. A special medical team is attending him.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said, "My prayers are with Lance Naik Hanumanthappa who miraculously survived the avalanche at Siachen."

Hanamanthappa, who hails from Karnataka, was found alive on Monday after being buried under 25 feet of snow for six days after an avalanche hit his post at the altitude of 19,600 feet close to the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan where the temperature was minus 45 degrees Celsius.

The other nine personnel at the post, including a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) and eight other ranks of Madras Regiment, have died, according to Lt Gen D S Hooda, Northern Army Commander. "Five bodies have been recovered so far and four bodies have been identified," he said.

Hanamanthappa's family members in Dharwad breathed a sigh of relief after news of him being rescued alive reached them. His wife told ANI, "I am very happy, I want to go and see him."

A rescue team that had been chipping away at ice for days found Hanamanthappa in an "arctic tent" and was astonished to feel a faint pulse. He was put on a rescue chopper that took off from the highest helipad on earth, on the Saltoro ridge of Siachen.

Hanamanthappa was buried deep after a wall of ice a kilometre wide and 800 metres high came crashing down on his army post, killing nine of his colleagues.

Severely dehydrated and stiff, Hanamanthappa drifted in and out of consciousness as a doctor revived him. He is now stable.

"Recovering the soldier is nothing short of a miracle. A wall of snow as thick and hard as concrete had fallen on them," Lieutenant General S K Patyal told NDTV.

"The operation was extremely difficult," he said. The rescue team could not work more than 30 minutes at a time.''

The army had all but lost hope of finding anyone, dead or alive, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi having already tweeted, "I salute the brave soldiers who gave their lives to the nation. Condolences to their families."

Five bodies have also been found after some 300 sorties and an intense search at a height of nearly 20,000 feet, where it is difficult to breathe, let alone dig.

The rescue, involving heavy equipment that had to be assembled at the top, and dogs, became particularly challenging because the snow had turned into hard chunks of ice. In temperatures between minus 40 and 25 degrees, rescue teams had to battle frequent blizzards and work through low visibility.

Four more soldiers are still missing.

The Siachen Glacier located at the northern tip of Kashmir is the world's highest and coldest battlefield. More soldiers have died here because of the weather and difficult terrain than in battle. At least 869 officers and soldiers have been killed there since the mid-1980s.

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