Some 680 people including locals and tourists who got stranded in unexpected heavy snowfall near Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh have been rescued by army teams in an operation that lasted through Monday night. The people were travelling in 320 vehicles when day-long snowfall pounded them near the high-altitude Sela Pass where temperatures drop to ice cold levels and could trigger frost bite in no time.
One of the rescued civilians was a one-and-a-half-year-old child who was having difficulty in breathing, and a 70-year-old tourist whose blood pressure had increased to dangerous levels. Some critically ill people were first stabilised at a medical post and later evacuated.
On getting information that the people were stranded in the icy mountains, 13,000 feet above sea level, three rescue teams were sent from the nearest army base at Baisakhi, 25 kilometres away.
A team led by Havildar Prasan Rai working north of Sela Pass managed to get 188 stranded vehicles moving by helping them find best way to get out of the deep snow. Some 400 people were moved to a rescue camp at Jaswantgarh, 430 km from state capital Itanagar, by 7:30 pm on Monday. From there the people proceeded on their own.
Soldiers push a truck that got stranded in heavy snowfall near Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh
Another two teams led by Captain Tarun Singh Guleria and Captain Lavanya Sharma were sent to rescue civilians stranded south of Sela Pass. They evacuated 280 people and 132 vehicles till late in the evening.
The rescue missions in sub-zero temperature at a high altitude in harsh terrain as the sun was setting posed a formidable challenge for the army teams. The troops of the Baisakhi Brigade of the Blazing Sword Division worked for over seven hours to get everyone to safety.
Last year in March, army teams had rescued 127 people who got stuck at the same location due to sudden heavy snowfall.