Five trekkers out of a group of 11 were found dead on Friday in the treacherous Lamkhaga Pass, two days after they went missing amid heavy snowfall in two districts of the hill state.
Officials said that four trekkers were still missing while two of the rescued were in critical condition.
One of them was air-lifted from the pass, located at an altitude of more than 17,000 feet, but bad weather stopped the rescue operations midway. The other trekker will be air-lifted on Friday, said Kinnaur deputy commissioner Abid Hussain Sadiq.
More than 80 tourists from different states were stranded at Batal in Lahaul Spiti where all road communications remain snapped for the past 72 hours due to snowfall. Rescue and medical emergency officials reached them on Thursday. The tourists have been provided accommodation at a government guest house.
Officials said that the group of trekkers were stranded during the heavy snowfall on their way to Chitkul village of Kinnaur district. They had begun their trek from Harsil in neighbouring Uttarakhand. Though the exact cause of the deaths is yet to be ascertained, officials believe that the extreme cold conditions might have led to frostbite.
Besides, they might have also run of food and water. “Only post-mortem tests on the bodies will tell us the cause of their death but there is always a possibility of them having been frozen to death,” the DC said.
Lamkhaga Pass—one of the toughest high mountain valleys connecting Garhwal with Kinnaur—is close to the Indo-China border.
“One of two critically ill persons has been airlifted by an army helicopter and taken to Harshil in Uttarakhand while a group of three army soldiers have been dropped at Lamkhaga Pass to take care of the injured people and also provide them all emergency medical aid,” said Sadiq, who has been coordinating with the army and ITBP for the relief and rescue operations.
Sadiq said army helicopters could not land at the Pass or nearby locations but the teams managed to spot the bodies and reach-out to the critically ill and injured people.
The DC said that the bodies and the stranded trekkers were found at different locations. The eight trekkers and three cook-cum-porters had left for Chitkul from Harsil on October 11. They were scheduled to arrive in Kinnaur on October 19.
The rescued trekkers could not give any information about the four missing people.
The list of the trekkers supplied to district administration at Kinnaur included Mithun Dari (31), Tanmay Tiwari (30), Vikash Makal (33), Saurav Ghosh (34), Saviayan Das (28), Richard Mandal (30), and Suken Manjhi (43), all from Kolkata while Anita Rawat (38yrs) is from Delhi.
Their helpers, Devendra (37), Gyan Chandra (33) and Upendra (32), are from Purola area of Uttarkashi. They are among the missing people.
Uttarakhand has been witnessing unprecedented heavy rain and unseasonal snowfall resulting in several deaths .
Lahaul-Spiti and Kinnaur districts have also witnessed the season’s first snowfall. Around 205 tourists stranded between Pooh and Kaza were rescued by the army two days ago.