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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

praying for the brave Lance Naik Hanumanthappa who survived icy avalanche at Siachen

Those who serve for the Nation ~ the Army are the only real heroes. Army life no doubt is most sternous…… the one at high glaciers of Siachen & Kargil are tougher still….soldiers stay away from their families, their beloved ones, with little or no communication ….. but life at Kargil is tougher…. ~ there would be freezing temperatures, life in tents and most strikingly no human connect at all – the next person could be miles away and supplies could come at a long frequency……… the depression could often lead to mental disorders… yet soldiers struggle, survive and sacrifice their today for our tomorrow.

The avalanche at the Siachen glacier, in which ten army soliders were reported  killed, is the latest chapter of a three-decade old saga of a frozen conflict on world's highest battleground. Since 1984, the glacier has been fiercely contested by both India and Pakistan, with massive amounts of resources and manpower spent to fight what many say is a pointless fight.  The saviours of the Nation lost their lives after a massive avalanche ripped off an army post at the glacier.

On February 3, an 800 x 400 ft wall of ice broke off and overwhelmed an Indian Army post on the Siachen glacier, the world's highest battlefield. The debris, including massive boulders of ice the size of a small room, spread over 800 x 1000 metres.  It is not for the first time,  four years ago, the Siachen glacier had seen an even bigger avalanche tragedy, on the Pakistani side of the standoff. More than 120 Pakistani soldiers died after being buried under the snow and India offered help. The majority of deaths which have taken place in Siachen have taken place not because of armed combat, but because of the weather conditions. In temparatures which can go down to -50 degrees celsius,  soldiers suffer frostbite, a shortage of oxygen and a loss of appetite.

Now six days after a devastating avalanche overran ten brave Indian soldiers at the world's highest battlefield in Siachen, Lance Naik Hanumanthappa was brought out alive, as he survived what nine of his comrades could not. The dogged determination of over 150 soldiers helped by two canines, Dot and Misha -- besides earth-penetrating radars and special ice-cutting equipment -- rescued Lance Naik Hanumanthappa Koppad, who was buried under tonnes of ice at 19,500 ft on the Siachen glacier for six days.      

According to Army sources, here is how the rescue team reached Hanamanthappa:

- On February 3, an 800ft by 400ft ice wall broke off and covered an Army Post located under tones of ice debris at 19500 feet in the Northern Glacier in Siachen, Jammy and Kashmir.
- The ice debris covered an area of 800x1000 metres with a depth of 25 to 30 feet.  Massive ice boulders, some the size of a Small Room had covered the post.
- The rescue teams had the arduous tasks of breaking through 25-30 ft of blue ice which is harder than concrete and physically chopped off the ice blocks inch by inch.
- Approximately over 150 trained and acclimatized Army troops including specialized teams trained in glaciated terrain were moved into the avalanche site and round the clock rescue operations were carried out despite extreme weather conditions, where day temperatures were at an average of -30 degree centigrade and night temperatures were below -55 degree centigrade.
- Medical teams and equipment were also moved and a medical aid post was established to provide emergency medical cover at the rescue location. Specialized rescue dogs were also pushed into service. 
- Specialized digging and boring equipment, like Rock Drills, Electrical Saws and earth augurs were flown in.  In addition, deep penetration radars capable of detecting metallic objects and heat signatures at a depth of 20 meters and radio signal detectors were also flown in using Air Force fixed wing aircrafts and Army Aviation helicopters.
- In spite of adverse weather conditions and poor visibility, the Army aviation helicopters were employed continuously for ferrying troops and rescue material and stores for the search operations.
- Using the specialized equipment the rescue teams were able to identify locations, where digging were carried out, however, rescue efforts were frequently hampered by high intensity winds and blizzards.
- By February eight the rescue teams were able to reach the location of the buried habitat and Hanamanthappa was recovered alive. The nine mortal remains of the other soldiers who were also snowed in were extricated from the avalanche site.
- On recovery, he was found to be conscious but drowsy and disoriented.  He was severely dehydrated, hypothermic, hypoxic, hypoglycaemic and in shock.  He was immediately resuscitated by the doctors at the site, who had been there for the past 5 days in the hope of a survivor.
- He was treated with warm intravenous fluids, humidified warm oxygen and passive external re-warming.  He was flown out from the site on February 9 by helicopter along with a Medical Specialist to the Siachen base camp, from where he to Partapur Military Hospital and later flown by C-17 fixed wing aircraft to Research &  Referral hospital, New Delhi.

Meanwhile, Koppad remains extremely critical and is expected to have a stormy course in the next 24 to 48 hours due to the complications caused by re-warming and establishment of blood flow to the cold parts of the body. Fortunately, there was no cold exposure-related frost bite or bony injuries to him, a medical bulletin issued by the hospital said.

The concerned Nation is praying for the  Brave Solider from Hubballi Who cheated death for 120 hours even as his native Betadur village erupted with joy, awaiting the return of its brave son.  Hanumanthappa lies in comatose and a state of shock with low blood pressure, the nation is lauding his extraordinary endurance and an indomitable spirit of survival.

Hanumanthappa was a part of the 10 Madras regiment, and was recently posted to Siachen.    The soldier who was protecting the nation at a height of 19000 feet and a temperature of minus 45 degrees Celsius, has a wife and a one and a half year old daughter waiting at home.  RR Hospital's medical bulletin said the soldier “remains extremely critical and is expected to have a stormy course in the next 24-48 hours”.
The entire is praying for Hanumanthappa Koppad’s recovery. Mahadevi (Jayashri), wife of Lance Naik Hanumanthappa Koppad, termed his survival a ‘rebirth’. “If he has survived miraculously, it is mainly because of his mother’s prayers,” she said.  The great survivor was  flown out in a helicopter to the Siachen base camp, from where he was brought to the Thois airbase. Within hours, he was transported on an Indian Air Force aircraft, accompanied by critical care specialists, to New Delhi. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who visited the hospital on Tuesday, praised “the endurance & indomitable spirit of Lance Naik Hanumanthappa”, and called him “an outstanding soldier.”

Lance Naik Hanumanthappa has beaten the most incredible odds and has survived six days under ice. It is not explainable. It really isn’t. The training and mental-preparedness may have played cameo role in the initial hours or a day – it is God’s wish and Nation’s fortune that he is alive.   We pray for his speedy recovery and well-being bowing our heads in humility to the  Power that kept him alive …. Nation needs him.

With reverence
S. Sampathkumar
10th Feb 2016.
Collated from various sources – primarily the Indian Express, the Hindu & Firstpost.


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