INDIA. Mumbai: Seven Army personnel killed in an avalanche in Arunachal Pradesh’s Kameng sector on Sunday have been confirmed dead, and their bodies have been recovered from the avalanche site.
The deceased have been identified as Havildar Jugal Kishore, Riflemen- Arun Kattal-Akshay Pathania, Vishal Sharma, Rakesh Singh, Ankesh Bhardwaj, and Gunnar Gurbaj Singh.
“The bodies of the deceased have been shifted to nearby Army Hospital and they are being handed over to their relatives. The next of the kin will be given compensation as per prevailing rules since the deceased died in harness,” a Defence spokesman Commander Mehul Karnik said.
The seven soldiers were members of the Indian Army’s 19th Jammu & Kashmir Rifles, an infantry regiment. The Army said in a statement that the area has been experiencing inclement weather with heavy snowfall for several days.
The Chume Gyater area is around 100 km from the district headquarters of Tawang.
The seven Army personnel were part of a patrol team and had gone missing after being hit by the avalanche in the Tawang district. The incident happened along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The area is very remote and all roads were blocked due to snowfall.
The Army had launched an “Op Babu Rakshanam” and had airlifted search and rescue teams to the location. They comprised Army specialists with qualified mountaineering and Rock climbing experts from Parachute regiment centre, Bangalore and Madras regimental centre, Wellington, a spokesman for Ministry of Defence A Bharat Bhushan Babu said.
Of late the threats have increased along the Line of Control (LOC) and the Line of Actual Control. To counter this, the Indian Army has increased the patrolling in the region, especially after Pangong Tso and the abrogation of Article 370.
The Indian Army has sent a large number of troops to the border with China. Typically, soldiers patrol and return to their bases.
This year, however, they are confined to trenches and overhead shelters. So far, no human has stayed in these locations.
Avalanche is a rapid flow of snow down a mountainside. A fully developed avalanche can weigh as much as a million tons. It can travel faster than 320 kilometers per hour.
The first and foremost challenge is the drop of oxygen. The reduction level can be 65%. To survive in these conditions, the army troops undergo three levels of training for 14 days. The first stage involves six days of training at 12,000 feet, four days of training at 15,000 feet, and four days in altitudes above that.
The main challenges along these borders are limited road infrastructure, increased risk of injury, a lack of drinking water, cold-related illnesses, avalanches, and a lack of medical facilities. Temperatures in these areas can drop to -5 degrees Celsius. This increases the likelihood of hypothermia.
The death of the soldiers was condoled also by the President, PM, Vice President, Vice President Union External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee among others.
Union minister and Arunachal Pradesh MP Kiren Rijiju said, “I am deeply saddened by the loss of lives of 7 brave Indian Army Jawans, who were trapped in an avalanche in Kameng, Arunachal Pradesh. My heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families. May God give them the strength to bear this tragic loss.
A similar mishap occurred in May 2020 when two army personnel who belonged to the snow clearing troop died in an avalanche in Sikkim. Similarly, the Indian Army lost six army personnel due to avalanches that year.
In 2019, six army personnel died due to avalanches in the Siachen glacier. The Siachen glacier – Saltoro ridge, Ladakh, and certain areas of China border are in forbidden terrains. Since 1984, thousand soldiers and 35 officers have lost their lives in Siachen glacier – Saltoro ridge.