PALAKKAD: Nearly 45 hours after he was cooped up in a cleft of a steep rock in Kurumbachi hills at Cherad near Malampuzha, 23-year-old R Babu was successfully lifted to the hilltop by a team of Army personnel as dozens of people waited with bated breath on Wednesday. The youth, who displayed unbelievable willpower in the last two days, walked for some distance and appeared cheerful. The perilous operation to rescue Babu, who got trapped in the cleft around 2pm on Monday, lasted 50 minutes.
On reaching the hilltop around 10.20 am, Babu’s joy knew no bounds. He sat amid the soldiers who rescued him and planted kisses on the cheeks of three of them. He also joined in the shouts of Bharat Mata Ki Jai by local residents who had assembled there.
Pointing to the personnel, he also said in a smattering of Hindi, “Upar me le ke aaye (they brought me to the top).” The rescue operations began at 9.30 am. Soldier Balakrishnan, alias Bala, climbed down on a rope, handed Babu a safety belt and helmet and fastened him to his body while the other personnel slowly pulled them up. The duo stopped every now and then to rest. Minutes before, Balakrishnan, along with colleague Ramesh, had carried food and water to Babu for which he had been gesturing for the past two days.
“It was a very risky operation. I have not seen such a brave attempt in my lifetime. A 400-m-long rope was initially dropped from the mountain top. It was Balakrishnan who went 280m down to where Babu was stranded while Ramesh planted himself firm on the rock midway. Babu was fastened to Balakrishnan with a rope and the army personnel and others, including us, pulled the rope to bring them to the top,” Krishna Kumar, alias Kannan, of Pudussery told TNIE. Kannan is a civil defence volunteer of the Fire and Rescue Services Department who participated in the operation with three others — Sudheesh, Ananthakrishnan and Sivan. Babu had injured his leg when he fell into the rock cleft. He was also fatigued due to lack of food and water for two days.
70 personnel come together to save babu
He was airlifted from Kurumbachi hills to the BEML ground in Kanjikode by noon from where he was taken by road in an ambulance to the Palakkad District Hospital. His mother, Rashida, and other relatives were at the hospital. The doctors said Babu, who was admitted in the ICU, would be kept under observation for 24 hours.
A total of 70 rescue personnel, including a 32-member Army team and a 20-member NDRF team, took part in the rescue operation on Wednesday. They included 23 army personnel from the Parachute Regiment in Bengaluru who came to Malampuzha via the Sular Air Force base in Coimbatore and nine mountaineering experts of the Madras Regiment led by Lt-Col Hemant Raj came from Wellington, Ooty. In the morning, two teams of army personnel started on their mission.
While one team that was already atop the hill tried to reach the spot where Babu was stuck, another team started from below. A drone team of the survey department was also kept at stand-by for emergencies. A team of doctors, an ambulance and medical supplies waited at the base camp at Cherad to give preliminary medical treatment.
The army team led by Lt-Col Hemantraj arrived at Walayar by 11pm on Tuesday. They were received by the Walayar SIandescorted to Malampuzha. At night itself, the Army personnel reached 200m near the spot and Lt-Col Hemantraj could establish contact with Babu. He had asked for water at night and the army personnel instilled confidence in him. The personnel said there were wild animals in the hills and the team saw at least three bears during their journey on Tuesday night.