NEW DELHI: The dogged determination of over 150 soldiers helped by two canines, Dot and Misha -- besides earth-penetrating radars and special ice-cutting equipment -- rescue Lance Naik Hanumanthappa Koppad, who was buried under tonnes of ice at 19,500 ft on the Siachen glacier for six days.
On February 3, an 800 x 400 ft wall of ice broke off and overwhelmed an Indian Army post on the Siachen glacier, the world's highest battlefield. The debris, including massive boulders of ice the size of a small room, spread over 800 x 1000 metres.
The rescue teams had the arduous task of breaking through 25-30 ft of blue ice, which is harder than concrete. They had to chip it away inch by inch, army officials said, explaining the rescue operation.
Over 150 trained and acclimatized Army troops, including specialized teams trained in glaciated terrain, were moved to the avalanche site and round-the-clock rescue operations were carried out in extreme weather conditions where day temperatures average minus 30 degrees Celsius and night temperatures minus 55 degrees Celsius.
Medical teams and equipment were moved in and a post was established to provide emergency treatment to any survivors 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. Specialized digging and boring equipment, like rock drills, electrical saws and earth augers were flown in.
In addition, deep-penetration radar, capable of detecting metallic objects and heat signatures at a depth of 20 m, and radio signal detectors were also flown in using Air Force fixed-wing aircraft and Army Aviation helicopters.
Using the specialized equipment, the rescue teams were able to identify locations where digging had to be carried out.
However, rescue efforts were frequently hampered by high velocity winds and blizzards. By Monday, the rescue teams were able to reach the location of the buried post. Hanumanthappa was barely alive.
The bodies of nine other soldiers were also extricated from their icy grave.
"Finding Hanumanthappa alive electrified the entire rescue team. There was a sudden burst of energy among the men," officials said. When rescued, the soldier was conscious but drowsy and disoriented. He was severely "dehydrated, hypothermic, hypoxic, hypoglycemic and in shock".
He was immediately resuscitated by doctors, who had been there for five days in the hope of finding a survivor. He was treated with warm intravenous fluids, humidified warm oxygen and passive external rewarming. He was later moved to the Army and Research Hospital in New Delhi, they said.