New Delhi: The miraculous story of rescued soldier Lance Naik Hanamanthappa Koppad who clung to life buried 30 feet under a massive ice and snow debris that hurtled down a mountain slope on unforgiving Siachen glacier, is one of pure grit.
While he lies in bed with India praying for his recovery, it is worthwhile to take a note of the herculean efforts of the Army personnel who put in tooth and nail to rescue their man from the clutches of death.
Koppad was rescued yesterday from an altitude of 20,500 feet by a team of over 150 soldiers and two canines, Dot and Misha, and was initially declared dead by authorities, was flown in here by an IAF aircraft accompanied by a critical care specialist of the force and a medical specialist from the Siachen base camp.
Fortunately, there was no cold exposure-related frost bite or bony injuries to him, a medical bulletin issued by the hospital said.
"He has been placed on a ventilator to protect his airway and lungs in view of his comatose state. He remains extremely critical and is expected to have a stormy course in the next 24 to 48 hrs due to the complications caused by re-warming and establishment of blood flow to the cold parts of the body," it said.
His family's joy knew no limits as the news trickled in of him being alive.
"It is a rebirth for all of us," said Mahadevi, wife of Koppad, with a visible sense of relief as his miraculous survival.
Over 150 trained and acclimatized army troops, including specialized teams trained in glaciated terrain, were moved into the avalanche site and round-the-clock rescue operations were carried out in extreme weather conditions where average day temperature was minus 30 degrees Celsius and night temperature below minus 55 degrees.
Medical teams and equipment were moved in and a post established to provide emergency treatment at the rescue site itself. Specialized rescue dogs were also pressed into service.
"The dogs, Dot and Misha, did a tremendous job," the officials said.
The frozen heights of Siachen are toughest battlefield in the world where hostile weather has killed more soldiers than enemy bullets. Over 869 Indian soldiers have died in Siachen since 1984 due to climatic conditions, environmental and other factors.
The total number of officers who have died in Siachen since Operation Meghdoot that was launched in 1984 to reclaim the glacier from Pakistan was 33. Besides them, 54 JCOs have lost their lives, while casualties from other ranks are 782.
The government has spent over Rs 7,500 crore for procurement of clothing and mountaineering equipment for soldiers posted in high-altitude areas. The guns have largely been silent on the Glacier since 2003 following a ceasefire along the frontiers in Jammu and Kashmir.
The then Pakistan Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had in 2012 called for the resolution of the Siachen issue following an avalanche on the Pakistani side which left 139 dead, mostly soldiers.
Pakistan wants India to pull back troops to the positions of 1984. India has asked Pakistan to authenticate and demarcate the 110-kilometre Actual Ground Position Line on the glacier.
Stung by the surprise occupation of strategic heights in the Kargil sector in 1999, India has insisted on the authentication and demarcation of current military positions on Siachen.
The move is aimed at thwarting the possible re-induction of troops by Pakistan after any demilitarisation of the glacier.
(With PTI inputs)