AT LEAST four mountaineers were killed and over 30 feared trapped after an avalanche at Draupadi ka Danda-2 (DKD-2) peak in Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand on Tuesday.
The mountaineers were part of a team of 34 trainees, seven instructors and a nursing assistant from the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM). The NIM said the avalanche struck at around 8.45 am, when the team was returning after scaling the peak. A PTI report quoted the NIM principal, Colonel Amit Bisht, as saying that 10 bodies had been sighted, of which four had been recovered. The State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and Indian Air Force (IAF) are conducting rescue operations. SDRF Inspector General (IG) Ridhim Aggarwal said six trainees had been rescued so far.
“The DKD-2 peak is situated at a height of around 14,000 feet and the NIM base is at around 13,000 feet. The incident took place near the base camp. The entire area is snow-covered and the challenge for us is to reach there. The IAF is conducting recce operations. After that, they will either airdrop our teams or use a winch to rescue those trapped,” said Aggarwal.
She said the trainees had completed their basic course, and were trying to scale the peak as part of their advanced course. “In the morning, they were all roped up when a sudden avalanche hit the area. Because they were roped up, they were all trapped under the snow,” said Aggarwal.
The NIM said the advanced mountaineering course began on September 14. “As per the course training schedule, after the revision of rock-climbing training at the NIM and Tekhla rock climbing area, the course moved to the mountain on September 23… (they) arrived at the base camp on September 25,” it said. At 4 am on Tuesday, the course moved to high-altitude navigation and height gain to mount Draupadi ka Danda-2, the NIM said. While returning from the peak, they were hit by the avalanche, it said.
Officials said the search and rescue operations were halted due to night and would resume early Wednesday morning.
“We have received information that trainees of Nehru Institute of Mountaineering in Uttarkashi are trapped at Draupadi ka Danda-2 mountain peak due to an avalanche in the area. Talking to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, we have requested the help of the Army to increase the speed of the rescue operation. He has assured us of all possible help from the central government,” Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said in a tweet.
In a series of tweets, Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said he had directed the IAF to carry out rescue and relief operations. “Deeply anguished by the loss of precious lives… My condolences to the bereaved families who have lost their loved ones,” he tweeted.“Spoke to CM Pushkar Singh Dhami. CM and I took stock of the situation. Rescue operations are underway to help the mountaineers who are still trapped. I have instructed the IAF to mount the rescue and relief ops. Praying for everyone’s safety and well-being,” he added.