It was on February 2 that Lance Naik Hanumanthappa Koppad last spoke to his mother and wife. A day later, he was buried alive under 35 feet of snow in Siachen with odds stacked heavily against his survival. On Tuesday, the news of Hanumanthappa’s miraculous rescue triggered celebrations at his village Betadur, which is located 15 km from Hubli in Dharwad district of Karnataka.
“We are happy to hear that he is alive. He has been saved because of god’s blessings,” said Basavva, Hanumanthappa’s mother, with a huge sense of relief. His wife Mahadevi performed a puja after the news of his rescue reached the village.
Hanumanthappa had married Mahadevi, the daughter of his older sister, three years ago.
Later in the day, the family along with the Lance Naik’s 18-month-old daughter, Netra, rushed to Goa to catch a flight to Delhi to see Hanumanthappa, who has been admitted to the Army Research and Reference Hospital in a critical condition.
While Hanumanthappa survived, nine other soldiers from the Army’s 19 Madras regiment were killed after an avalanche hit their post at an altitude of 19,600 feet where the temperature was minus 45 degrees Celsius.
Hanumanthappa’s former classmate, Manjunath, who hails from the same village, said that the news of of the avalanche had “not only shocked Basavva’s family, but also the entire village”.
“We prayed to god to save Hanumanthappa, and many people gave us hope that he might be alive. We hope he will get well soon and come to our village,” said Manjunath.
The soldier’s cousin Kishore Koppad said that Hanumanthappa, one of four siblings, had joined the Army about 14 years ago.
“He used to tell us that his job was difficult. He also used to tell his family not to worry too much about him. He was not reachable most of the time, when we tried calling him over his phone. We used to wait for his call to speak to him,” said Kishore. He added that during his last phone call he had told his family that he was in a very cold place.
“His mother, during the conversation, told him to be safe. He replied saying that he was not in a place like his home where he could be safe, but in a place where the Indian Army wanted his service,” said Kishore.
The next day the family received news about 10 soldiers, including Hanumanthappa, having gone missing after the avalanche.