Leaving Uttarkashi ordeal behind, 13 survivors return to Bengaluru

Byre Gowda said the tragedy was unexpected and unpredictable because the route chosen was a regular one where weather conditions are generally favourable.
Leaving Uttarkashi ordeal behind, 13 survivors return to Bengaluru

BENGALURU: Emotions ran high as 13 trekkers returned safely to Bengaluru after their harrowing experience in Uttarkashi. Waiting anxiously at Kempegowda International Airport were their families, and as the survivors emerged, there were tears of joy, tight embraces, and silent prayers of gratitude for their safe return.

The flight from Dehradun to Bengaluru, initially scheduled to land at 8:46pm at KIA, was delayed by over 30 minutes and landed at 9:20pm. However, family members and friends were only able to reunite with their loved ones, who had faced a near-death experience, by 10pm.

Revenue Minister Krishna Byre Gowda, who accompanied the survivors, told TNIE that the 13 survivors are physically healthy but mentally in shock. “They are in extreme pain after witnessing their close friends and associates die in front of them, due to extreme weather conditions,” he said.

Byre Gowda said the tragedy was unexpected and unpredictable because the route chosen was a regular one where weather conditions are generally favourable. Such extreme weather is rarely seen even on more challenging routes.

Since a chartered flight could not be arranged, bodies of the nine dead trekkers will be transported by road from Dehradun to Delhi airport. From Friday morning, five flights with two bodies each will land at KIA, starting 5.30am. Officials in Delhi and Dehradun are coordinating, and ambulances will be ready at the airport to take the bodies to their respective homes, the minister added.

SK Mehta, president of Karnataka Mountaineering Association and an experienced trekker who was waiting for his friends at the airport, explained that trekkers embark on treks with full awareness of the potential consequences, much like participants of any other adventure sport. However, he said the recent incident was purely the result of dramatic weather conditions.

“All those caught in the blizzard on the afternoon of June 3 were returning from Sahastra Tal to their base camp, and would have arrived within two hours if the weather had not turned disastrous. They faced a complete blackout, heavy snowfall, torrential rain, strong gusty winds, and absolutely no light or visibility, leaving them disoriented and unsure of where to go or what to do,” Mehta said.

They were at an elevation of about 1,300 feet, which is generally considered safe, and risk is typically expected only above 1,800 feet. One of the trekkers had managed to come down and send an emergency text, after which we alerted the government, he said.

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