Indian army helicopters which have been deployed in the search of 11 trekkers who went missing at the Lamkhaga Pass of Uttarkashi, a high-altitude area in Uttarakhand, have identified and airlifted five bodies on October 22. One injured person—the second since October 21, was also rescued and flown to Uttarkashi. The condition of both is stated to be stable.
According to reports, two more bodies of trekkers have been found by the ITBP and army’s ground parties in Himachal Pradesh, while two trekkers are still missing.
“We are bringing the bodies to Sangla, 225 kms from Shimla, for post-mortem and other legal formalities .The army will start a fresh search operation for the two trekkers on October 23, said Abid Hussain Sadiq, deputy commissioner, Kinnaur.
He told Outlook that five trekkers whose bodies were airlifted and identified are Shubhayan Das, Vikas Makal, Saurabh Ghosh, Tanumoy Tiwari and Anita Rawat, the only woman member in the group. While the first four are from West Bengal, Rawat was from Delhi .
Those injured included Mithun Dari, a trekker from West Bengal and guide Devendra Chauhan from Uttarakhand, an employee of Ecofreak Adventures, a trekking firm that facilitated the trek. The group had eight trekkers, two guides and one cook.
When contacted, Manmohan of Ecofreak Adventures said all the trekkers were in good health and that he had briefed them well, cautioning them about sudden weather changes and possibilities of heavy snowfall.
“Most of them already had one or two earlier experiences in this terrain. They were in the age group of 28 to 43 .While the male members were from West Bengal, Anita Rawat, 38, was from Delhi . Being a guide, I had planned to travel with them, but dropped out at the last moment on October 14,” he recalls.
Manmohan says the forecast of inclement weather was definitely a concern--something which he had shared with the trekkers.
Divender Patwal, manager at District Disaster Management cell, Uttarkashi, said another firm, Summit Himalaya Trek and Tours, was also involved in operating treks.
As per a report submitted by the SHO of Harshil (Uttarkashi), there were four Nepali porters deputed by Ecofreak Adventures to accompany the trekkers besides three other employees, including two guides.
However, the porters abandoned the tour mid-way, after the weather had turned hostile and heavy snowfall had started. They were the ones who informed ITBP personnel about the trekkers being trapped in the blizzard, while on their way to Lamkhaga Pass.
“The owner of Ecofreak Aventures, Anshul Tomar, was alerted; so was the ITBP post at Neechighat and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) Uttarakhand,” the SHO’s report reads.
The NDRF, thereafter, took over the matter with the Indian army and air force for the search and rescue operation.
The search operation was being coordinated by the Uttarakhand government, NDRF and District Disaster Management authorities of Uttarkashi by setting-up teams at different levels.