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PIX: 'I survived the avalanche thanks to army's help'

Last updated on: February 28, 2012 00:00 IST

'I survived the avalanche thanks to army's help'

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Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar

Mukhtar Ahmad meets Abdul Rafique Lone who miraculously survived a deadly avalanche at Sonamarg in Jammu and Kashmir, all thanks to timely rescue operations by Indian army paratroopers.

But for the timely rescue by the paratroopers of the army, Abdul Rafique Lone and eight other civilians who were struck by a massive avalanche in Shitkari village near the famous mountain resort of Sonamarg in north Kashmir's Ganderbal district on February 24, would have perished.

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Image: An aerial view of the avalanche-damaged Sonamarg on Monday
Photographs: Umar Ganie/Rediff.com

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'Every passing minute brought death closer'

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Recounting the ordeal and their timely rescue by the paratroopers of the army, Lone said, "We were at the mercy of God and had little or no hope of survival. Every passing minute brought death closer. Gradually we were getting physically and mentally numb".

The rescue by the paratroopers seemed a replica of the famous Discovery Channel series 'I shouldn't be Alive'.



Image: An army camp damaged by the avalanche at Sonamarg on Monday
Photographs: Umar Ganie/Rediff.com
Tags: Lone

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'We were stuck inside with no way to move out'

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Lone staying with his relative at Shitkari village of Sonamarg, miraculously escaped the avalanche due to the timely rescue.

The low drone of a helicopter over Lone and his colleagues really gave them the first ray of hope that things were happening and God had answered their prayers.

According to Lone, on February 22, Sonamarg witnessed heavy snowfall and strong winds. "Late afternoon Shitkari village came under the unforgiving crush of a massive avalanche, and we were stuck inside with no way to move out."


Image: Army personnel during rescue operations at avalanche-hit Sonamarg on Monday
Photographs: Umar Ganie/Rediff.com
Tags: Sonamarg

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'Major Khati came to our rescue'

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Lone further said, "On the morning of February 24 at around 9 am we heard the distant hum of a helicopter approaching us. I struggled out of the house and realised that it was an army rescue team, looking for survivors."

"I waved my arms to get their attention and fortunately they spotted me. However, the helicopter could not land due to unstable snow that was more than 15 feet thick. I then saw an army personnel jumping out of the helicopter into the snow. He made his way over to me and said that he was Major Khati who was here to rescue us".


Image: Snow trapped people evacuated by an army helicopter in avalanche-hit Sonamarg
Photographs: Umar Ganie/Rediff.com

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'We shall forever be grateful to the brave soldiers'

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Major Khati from 81 Mountain Brigade, who is a paratrooper, along with Rafique's assistance located and pulled out eight more people who were trapped under snow in general vicinity.

"After ensuring that no one was hurt, Major Khati gathered the survivors and set out to beat down the unstable snow, large enough for the helicopter to land."

From this makeshift helipad, the survivors were airlifted in three sorties. Major Khati left the area only after the last of the survivors had been evacuated.

"We shall forever be grateful to the brave soldiers and pilots of the Indian armed forces, especially to Major Khati, who risked his own life to save ours," Lone added.

 


Image: Civilians being evacuated to safer areas in an army helicopter after they were rescued from the avalanche-hit Sonamarg
Photographs: Umar Ganie/Rediff.com

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