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Sunday, December 05, 2021

Uttarakhand: Bodies of 7 trekkers found; 12 dead, three still missing

Two of the dead whose bodies were found Saturday, from near the Lamkhaga Pass bordering Himachal Pradesh, were part of an 11-member team from West Bengal that had gone missing while on way to Chitkul from Harsil in Uttarkashi.

Written by Avaneesh Mishra , Atri Mitra , Amil Bhatnagar | Dehradun, Kolkata, New Delhi |
Updated: October 24, 2021 6:13:34 am
ITBP personnel retrieve bodies of trekkers, near Lamkhaga Pass in Kinnaur. (Photo: UNI via ITBP)

Seven more bodies of members of two separate trekking teams hit by bad weather in Uttarakhand were recovered on Saturday. While 12 of the 21 trekkers are now confirmed dead, three remain missing.

Two of the dead whose bodies were found Saturday, from near the Lamkhaga Pass bordering Himachal Pradesh, were part of an 11-member team from West Bengal that had gone missing while on way to Chitkul from Harsil in Uttarkashi. The bodies of five of them had been found earlier. Two of the 11 remain missing, with rescue operations halted due to bad weather. Two are injured and in hospital.

The five others found dead Saturday were part of another trekking team, which was hit by an avalanche at Sunderdhunga glacier in Bageshwar district. The four porters-cum-guides who were part of this 10-member team had managed to make their way out. One of the team members remains missing.

Counting the trekkers found dead Saturday, the number of casualties in rain-related incidents since October 17 in the higher reaches of Uttarakhand, triggering landslides and avalanches, has now cross 75. Twenty-six people are injured.

SDRF Commandant Navneet Bhullar told The Sunday Express that they had deployed high-altitude teams, climbers and Army helicopters for the search and rescue operations, but were hamstrung due to bad weather and snowfall.

Bhullar said the trekkers who died in Uttarkashi had started their trek on October 14-15 from Harsil. “On October 19 we were informed by their tour organiser that the weather was worsening and the team was stuck at over 15,000 feet. We immediately responded, using two Advanced light Helicopters (ALH). Continuous operations have been on since.”

The SDRF Commandant added that in Bageshwar, two rescues had been made successfully, with the third ongoing. “At Pindari glacier, 34 people were stranded, including six foreign nationals, and all were rescued. Fortunately they had just started their trek when hit by bad weather. They were just 11 km from the last habitation and found shelter. At Kafni glacier we rescued 19 locals who had climbed up to take their goats for grazing and had got stuck.”

At Sunderdhunga, Bhullar said, the 10-member team included five trekkers, a staff member and four porters-cum-guides from Khati village, where the trek started. “The four porter guides came back after bad weather hit and said there was an avalanche that had left four people dead while two were missing,” Bhullar said.

Officials said they had received information regarding some locals also being stuck in Joling Kong in Pithoragarh, and SDRF teams would reach them by Saturday night.

West Bengal officials said Uttarakhand had identified five from the state who had died in the Uttarkashi incident as Tanmay Tiwari (30), Vikash Makal (33), Sourav Ghosh (34), Shuvayan Das (28) and Richard Mandol (31). Out of the six, four were from South 24 Parganas.

Of the two injured, one is Mithun Dari, from South 24 Parganas district. His elder brother Manoj Dari said Mithun was admitted at an Uttarkashi hospital. “On October 14 morning, the day he started the trek, he called me and said he would not be available on his phone for four-five days. On Friday morning I saw on the TV that his entire team was missing. Today morning, he called me.”

Among those still missing is Sukhen Majhi, and the family said they had not got any word on Majhi’s whereabouts.

Anthony Gayen, the brother-in-law of the deceased Vikash Makal, said: “We are in the dark on what exactly happened and if they are indeed dead because we have not get any information from the government. Everything we know is from the media. We request the West Bengal government to arrange to get their bodies home.”

The family of Anita Rawat, 38, based in Hari Nagar in Delhi said she had left for the trek 10 days ago and was supposed to join a group of travellers from across the country. Anita’s family originally hails from a village in Tehri, Uttarakhand, and she had always been a keen trekker, when not helping run the family sweet shop.

“She loved travelling and had wanted to go on this trek for some time. Anita had told us she would be back before Karwa Chauth… Family members have gone for identification (of the body),” Rawat’s uncle Dharmendra Singh Bhandari said.

The family’s Jyoti Sweet Shop started as a small set-up, but business grew over the years and it is now run from a bigger store. The family said Rawat was a medical professional, and worked in Medanta Hospital before quitting her job to help run the business following her brother’s death. Unmarried, she lived in a joint family.

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