Rescuers have recovered the bodies of 27 climbers after an avalanche struck the Indian Himalayan mountains. Two are still missing as search and rescue operations enter their seventh day.
“We have retrieved 27 bodies so far — 25 of them were trainees and two bodies are those of instructors.”
– an official from the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, a government agency, told AFP
One of the students rescued, Sunil Lalwani, credited the instructors for preventing more fatalities.
“We were 50-100 meters from the summit with our instructors ahead of us, when suddenly an avalanche hit us and took everyone down. It happened in a matter of seconds and we were dumped in a crevasse. We were somehow able to breathe… It’s because of them that we are alive today.”
– Sunil Lalwani toldthe Hindustan Times
The group was hit by the massive slide in the Gangotri range of the Garhwal Himalayas in India on Tuesday morning, according to Uttarakhand state police chief Ashok Kumar. The group consisted of 42 from the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering: 34 students, seven instructors, and a nurse. At least 30 were caught and buried in the avalanche.
“It has happened for the first time in the history of Indian mountaineering that such a large group of trainee mountaineers has been killed in an avalanche.”
– Amit Chowdhary, an official at the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation and a former Indian air force officer
The students, preparing for high-altitude navigation, were at 18,602 feet returning from Draupadi ka Danda-II in the northern state of Uttarakhand when the avalanche struck at 8.45 am local time. The students were roped together when the avalanche struck, said Ridhim Aggarwal, inspector general with India’s disaster response force.
The National Disaster Response Force and the Indian army sent teams to assist in rescue efforts. The Indian air force deployed two helicopters to search for the missing.
The tragedy comes a week after an avalanche hit base camp on Manaslu, Nepal, killing two. A separate avalanche claimed the life of an American mountaineer, Hilaree Nelson, on the same day on Manaslu.
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