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An avalanche in Uttarkashi has claimed 16 lives; little could be done, says a survivor

Army personnel move towards the avalanche site to carry out rescue operations in Uttarkashi district. (Twitter/@ADGPI)

Officials said Thursday that twelve more bodies were recovered from the site of an avalanche that hit a team of climbers in Uttarakhand’s Uttarkashi district, bringing the death toll to 16.

A 41-member group of climbers comprising seven instructors and 34 trainees from NIM. Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM) was trapped by the avalanche that struck Draupadi ka Danda-2 (DKD-2) summit on Tuesday morning.

While 12 members of the team were saved, 13 remain missing.

According to a circular released in NIM, according to a bulletin issued by the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM) According to a bulletin issued by the NIM, from the sixteen bodies that have been recovered to date, 14 were trainees and two of their instructors.

Officials confirmed that the evacuation of bodies from the site of the avalanche, which was stopped because of poor weather conditions, would be resumed on Friday morning.

The survivor Naib Subedar Anil Kumar, told The Deccan Era that the team was for a hike as part of an advanced training program run by NIM.

“The 28-day program began on the 14th of September. In the initial few days, the participants are provided with an overview of their initial course, and after that, they receive a higher level of training. The final part of the course included staying at a camp close to the Dokriani Bamak glacier for around 10 days before ascending the DKD-2 peak…where the mountaineers had been climbing for the past 50 to 55 many years.” stated Kumar, the instructor.

Further details were provided. Kumar stated that on Tuesday morning, having prepared for the difficult climb, the 41 went to camp-1 at 3.15 morning after the weather had cleared. The goal, he explained, was to climb the DKD-2 summit before 8 am and return at 10 am.

“Trekking in the sun is extremely risky as it weakens bonds between them and the ice. Reflections of sunlight on the ice may also trigger exhaustion. At 7.45 am, I was at the top, as did another team member. We decided that over about 15 minutes, we will all be able to stop wherever we are now and begin a return,” Kumar said.

However, shortly after, and together with another climber group about 15-20m from the summit, it was time for a slab avalanche. A slab avalanche occurs when the weak ice layer is broken, dragging the layers on top downwards down. As soon as a slab avalanche is initiated, it will break into several separate blocks, which break up into smaller fragments.

“Around 150 meters below us was an avalanche. The avalanche broke off 3-4 ropes, and those tied to the ropes were swept to the bottom of the crevasse. I was on the front, and my rope pulled me downwards at an incredible velocity,” said Kumar, who sustained a fracture to the leg. “I attempted several times to fix the anchor into the ice, but the whole chunk of the ice had begun to slide down. When the snow started to melt, I pulled off the ropes, and set out to save my fellows. But, there was nothing we could do.”

As per NIM officials, out of the 16 bodies found to date only two women – — Naumi Rawat, and Savita Kanswal — have been identified. A native from Uttarkashi, Kanswal was the first Indian woman to scale Mount Everest and Mount Makalu within just 16 days. She also established a record in the country.

The desperate for information, and in the meantime, the families of trainees still missing are becoming desperate hour by hour in waiting for an update via the NIM or rescuers.

There is Kamna Singh, whose husband, Airforce Sergent Amit Kumar Singh, is not yet found. “The last time I talked to him was on the 23rd of September, and he said that for the next 15-16 days, he will not be able to talk to us as he will be out of the network area,” Kaamna stated to The Indian Express.

Kamna, as well as Amit, have a one-year-old daughter. She stated that Amit had completed primary school in the year 2019 and had left for NIM on the 10th of September. “As a Sergeant, he was to get this mountaineering training.”

At the avalanche location, the rescue teams comprise district officials, as well as NIM members NIM as well as personnel from the Indo-Tibetan Border Patrol (ITBP) as well as members of the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) as well as The Jammu and Kashmir High Altitude Warfare School (HAWS), and the Indian Army.

The missing people are believed to be trapped inside the crevasse in the Dokriani Bamak glacier, where the avalanche hit.

According to the list released by the NIM, The students hail from the states of West Bengal, Delhi, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Karnataka, Assam, and Tamil Nadu.

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