It took 180 men, 2 dogs & 6 days

It took 180 men, 2 dogs & 6 days

For the last six days, about 180 men from the 102 brigade of Indian Army, along with two sniffer dogs, were on duty almost round the clock, except for the mandatory spell of rest required at the world’s highest battlefield — the Siachen glacier.

Their mission succeeded on Tuesday when they managed to extricate Lance Naik K Hanmanthappa alive and bodies of his nine mates, who unfortunately could not make it. The team from 19 Madras Regiment was guarding the Sonam helipad at an altitude of 20,500 feet.

The helipad was at the base of Bana post, the highest post on the Siachen glacier-Saltaro ridge, named after Subedar Major Captain Bana Singh from 8 Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry regiment, who captured the highest post in Siachen in 1987.

Army officials in Delhi said a huge block of ice wall broke off from the mountain, resulting in an avalanche, which buried the 10 men from Madras Regiment within minutes.

The ice debris covered an area of 800x1000 mt and created a gigantic heap of ice of about 30 ft height.

The rescue team comprises two units from Ladakh Scout regiment besides the instructors at the Siachen Battlefield School, who are well-versed with the glacier and its treacherous climate. The commanding officer of 19 Madras regiment was also present at the spot.

The Army moved specialised equipment like rock drills, electrical saws, earth augurs and deep penetration Doppler radars that can pick up metals or heat signatures at a depth of up to 20 mt and radio signal detectors.

Dogs do their bit
Two trained sniffer dogs, Dot and Misha, were flown in. Moving up the equipment was a slow process as helicopters can carry only a fraction of their capacity due to rarefied atmosphere.

Indian Air Force’s 114 Helicopter Unit (Siachen Pioneers) and Army Aviation choppers ferried the men and machines to the icy heights.

Scouring every inch
The team painstakingly scoured every inch of the ground with their pods and radar to identify the location where the men were buried. The efforts were often hampered by high intensity winds and blizzards.

They slept in tents and continued the search by rotation. By February 8, the team zeroed in on the spot.

Subsequently they had to cut 25-30 ft thick blue ice — harder than concrete — to reach the men. The soldier from Dharwad was the only one found alive.
His pulse was feeble but the heart was beating.

The doctor accompanying the rescue team undertook emergency measures to resuscitate him and flew him out of Siachen at the first opportunity.
DH News Service

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