How comrades in life braved death to rescue Koppad in Siachen

80 men of 19 Madras Regiment risked their lives to retrieve Hanamanthappa alive

How comrades in life braved  death to rescue Koppad in Siachen

 The bravery of the 80-odd men of 19 Madras Regiment, who risked their lives to retrieve Lance Naik Hanamanthappa Koppad alive from under 35 feet of snow at Siachen Glacier last Monday, is no less breathtaking than the latter’s miraculous survival.

The avalanche that hit the Sonam post in the northern Siachen Glacier on February 3 had destroyed everything in its way. “It’s hard to say there was a military post there. Such was the devastation,” said Havaldar Ramesh G of 19 Madras Regiment, which is deployed at the world’s highest warfield to guard the 40-odd posts. Ramesh and six soldiers from the regiment had accompanied Koppad from Siachen to New Delhi and then flew down with his mortal remains to Hubballi.

Ramesh recounted to Deccan Herald why Koppad’s survival for six days under the snow was a miracle. “The temperature dips to minus 45 to minus 60 degrees Celsius in the nights. Never in the history of avalanches has a human being survived the nature’s fury for more than a day,” he said, recalling that when Koppad was retrieved from the snow debris, doctors could feel his pulse and heartbeat.

Lance Naik Raju Siruguppe, who belongs to the same regiment, said the bodies of 10 soldiers were recovered in record time. It was the first time in the history of avalanches that the bodies were recovered in just six days. In some cases, bodies were recovered after 25 years, he said.

How the tragedy struck

According to Raju, a 600 ft x 400 ft ice wall that had been standing tall since 1984 gave away all of a sudden. The 10 soldiers guarding the base were completely caught unawares. The 800-metre base was literally washed away and the ice debris spread over two kilometres, he said.

Rescuing soldiers or retrieving their bodies at an altitude of 19,600 feet was not easy. The Indian Air Force’s Cheetah helicopter had to land at the accident spot at zero visibility. “The pilot, whose name I have forgotten, landed there without caring for his own life. The adverse weather notwithstanding, the helicopter flew Koppad down to New Delhi,” he said. “Hanamanthappa was given the best medical care at the hospital. All of us at the base were hoping that he would survive. But...”

The Army had used specialised earth-penetrating radars to trace the bodies of the 10 soldiers. The rescuers were receiving constant but feeble radio signals from the devastated area that helped them reach the place at the earliest. The efforts of sniffer dogs Dot and Misha in tracing the bodies were no less inspiring.

Koppad’s comrades, who attended the funeral at his native village of Betadur near Hubballi on Friday, remembered him as a jolly person. “We have lost one of our brothers.”

Polling postponed in Betadur

The panchayat election at Betadur village in Dharwad district, which was scheduled for Saturday, will now be held on Monday.

The State Election Commission postponed the polling in the wake of the funeral of Lance Naik Hanamanthappa Koppad that was held at Betadur on Friday. The polling would be held from 7 am to 5 pm at four polling booths (polling booth 84 to 87) on February 15.

In a press statement, the Dharwad deputy commissioner said a large number of people from various parts of the district and high-profile politicians, including the chief minister, had attended the funeral.

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