October 4, 2007 11:49:12 pm
A hero of the Kargil war, decorated with the Vir Chakra for fighting back intruders at Siachen Glacier during Operation Vijay, is part of an Army mountaineering team that has been missing for over a week while climbing the Nanda Devi peak in the Garhwal Himalayas.
Major Shyamal Sinha, who won the gallantry award for courageous action against Pakistani intruders on the Southern Glacier in May 1999, was leading a five-member team to the 7,434-m high summit of the treacherous mountain when they lost contact with base camp during a severe snowstorm in the area.
Army sources said the last radio call from the team was received on September 26 afternoon saying that they were making their way back to a lower camp due to bad weather.
However, no word was received after a heavy snowfall and blizzard hit the entire Garhwal region. One JCO and three jawans, whose names have not been released, were also part of the team.
Army officers are hoping that Sinha, an experienced climber with an instructor grading from the Army’s High Altitude Warfare School (HAWS), managed to find cover for his team during the storm. While search operations were initially hampered due to bad weather, an Air Force helicopter inserted specialised ground search teams from HAWS on Wednesday after a break in the snowfall.
“We carried out several sorties in the area but the snowfall has wiped out any traces,” an IAF officer said. Officials confirmed that regular sorties were being carried out in the area and a helicopter from the Army Aviation Wing had been kept on standby for rescue missions.
“Three ground based parties from HAWS are carrying out a thorough search operation in the area. We are hoping that they found some kind of cover to escape the storm,” an Army officer said.
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