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Delhi engineer’s death: Be cautious while trekking in unknown terrains, say experts

Trek in groups or take help of local guides, especially in hilly forest areas: Search and rescue experts

After a four-day multi-agency search operation, Farhan’s body was located in a valley at a depth of around 1,000 feet and retrieved on Tuesday afternoon.

In the wake of the death of 24-year-old mechanical engineer from Delhi, Farhan Serajuddin, who lost his life after losing his way during a solo trekking trip in Nagphani near Lonavala, search and rescue experts have sounded a word of caution to enthusiasts venturing into hilly forest areas, especially the Western Ghats during the upcoming monsoon season.

Notably, after a multi-agency search operation that stretched over four days, Farhan’s body was located in a gorge at a depth of around 1,000 feet in Nagphani Tuesday morning. The body was retrieved later in the afternoon. The local police and rescuers said they usually carry out 10 to 12 rescue missions every year to locate individuals or amateur trekkers losing their way in forested or mountainous areas.

The multi-agency search operation to track Farhan included local villagers, teams from Pune rural police and trekkers from search and rescue groups – Shivdurg Mitra from Lonavala and Yashwant Hikers from Khopoli – teams from the INS Shivaji, Indian Navy’s training establishments located in Lonavala and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF). Family and friends of Farhan had also joined the search.

Because of his passion for trekking, Farhan came to Lonavala for a trek to the forest area around Nagphani area, also known as Duke’s Nose, known to be a high risk trek.

Ajay Raut from Shivdurg Mitra, a Lonavala-based group of trekkers that specialises in search and rescue, said: “The trekkers and tourists should always follow the basics of any adventure activity. Starting from wearing the right clothing, carrying adequate gear for the terrain, carrying sufficient water and dry food items, torch, battery backup for phones, first-aid kit, etc. Moving in groups should always be preferred, especially in difficult terrains. It is important to seek help from local guides if one is new to the area. The trekkers and tourists must be aware of all possible immediate risks including extreme weather conditions, flooding and forest fires, among others. High-risk tracks along water bodies, slippery routes, tracks along cliffs should be traversed with caution, and with assistance and guidance from experts.”

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Raut added, “In Farhan’s case, he seems to have moved away from the location from where he made his last phone call. It is important in case one gets lost in a forest or a mountain that he or she does not move far away from the last cell phone contact location.”

Anupam Shrivastava, the commandant of the 5th Battalion of the NDRF, said, “It is important to put in place a state-run system to monitor and regulate adventure activities in forests and mountainous regions. Setting up a system to register tourists entering these areas and then monitoring their movements are crucial. The visitors should be asked to follow only the prescribed paths or otherwise take help of state-appointed guides to negotiate difficult terrains. The local police, district administration and the forest department should quickly mobilise in response to emergency calls. Once the location of the at-risk tourists and the nature of the risk are assessed, the state or national disaster relief forces should be requisitioned.”

Pune Rural Police officials said they were yet to ascertain how Farhan fell into the gorge. Officials from the NDRF said that there were tell-tale signs in the area that helped them to locate Farhan’s body.

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The police probe had revealed that Farhan started his trek on the morning of May 20. He climbed the Duke’s Nose and was returning when he realised that he had lost his way. In his last communication with a friend in Delhi on the afternoon of May 20, before he became untraceable, Farhan told the friend that he had lost his way in the forest. He had even told him to start a search for him if he could not find a way out in a couple of hours.

Inspector Sitaram Dubal, in-charge of Lonavala town police station, earlier told Indianexpress.com, “Farhan’s last text messages suggest that he was tired, thirsty and had run out of water. Based on where his body was located in the gorge, we have reasons to believe that in an attempt to find a way out of the forest, Farhan may have walked along a dried stream. And it is possible that he may have fallen into the gorge from a cliff. He suffered severe multiple injuries owing to the fall.”

 

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First published on: 25-05-2022 at 01:44:44 pm
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