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Dublin: 0°C Monday 1 March 2021

Soldier buried under eight metres of snow found alive after six days

Nine of his colleagues died in the accident.

The Siachen Glacier area between India and Pakistan
The Siachen Glacier area between India and Pakistan
Image: Wiki Commons

AN INDIAN SOLDIER rescued nearly a week after he was buried by a deadly avalanche on the world’s highest battleground was yesterday being treated in Delhi in “extremely critical” condition, the army said.

Hanamanthappa Koppad spent six days trapped after a massive block of ice fell onto his army post 5,900 metres high in the Himalayas, killing nine of his colleagues.

His rescue late on Monday came days after India said there was little hope of survivors from the disaster on the Siachen glacier in the disputed region of Kashmir.

General D. S. Hooda, who heads the Indian Army’s northern command, said the man’s survival under nearly eight metres of snow in temperatures of minus 45 degrees Celsius was a “miracle”.

“It was not a typical soft snow avalanche. It was like a wall of rock-hard ice,” he told AFP, describing how army rescuers used sniffer dogs and specialist radar to detect the buried soldiers before cutting them free.

“The effort went on day and night, except during two nights when blizzards hit the area.

“In the end, the whole effort paid off as a miracle when a survivor was pulled out.”

The soldier, who was found conscious but severely hypothermic and in shock, was airlifted to a military hospital in Delhi yesterday.

A government statement said he was now comatose and in an “extremely critical” condition and had been placed on a ventilator.

“We are all very, very happy,” Koppad’s father told reporters in comments broadcast on television.

“God has been very kind to us. His mother had been crying, I was also crying,” he said, without giving his name.

“We don’t have money to go and visit him. If the government can help us a little, we can go to meet him.”

Hooda said the bodies of the other nine soldiers had now been retrieved, declaring the rescue mission over.

An estimated 8,000 soldiers have died on the glacier since 1984, almost all of them from avalanches, landslides, frostbite, altitude sickness or heart failure rather than combat.

In 2012, 140 Pakistani soldiers were killed at the high-altitude Gayari base in one of the worst disasters on the glacier.

- © AFP, 2016 

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