Avalanche hit vehicle at Khardong La

By Hajira Bano Balkhang Leh, Jun 29, 2015
Leh :
A snow avalanche hit a Xylo JK10- 5859 on 8 June, at Khardongla carrying three passengers of one family from Kolkata. The Driver Abdul Haq and one passenger (father of the family) survived even after they remained buried under snow for nine hours, but the wife and son died.

Abdul Haq (driver) told Reach Ladakh that he was with the family since 30 May. “I was with them since 30 May. On 8 June, we left for Nubra.  I verified my permit at South Pullu at around 8 am and headed towards Khardongla. At Khardong la, the family got off the vehicle to take pictures and at 11 am we drove towards Nubra. On the way, I overtook a biker. Later, I heard that it was the foreigner (biker) who was the only eyewitness who informed about the incident to Army check post within half an hour,” he said.

He said that he heard a whistling sound and suddenly the vehicle got covered by snow. “The passengers were really scared, but I assured them that we would be rescued. I opened the side window and tried to clear the snow but was not possible. After some time, we started feeling dizzy. We could not even move but somehow risking my own life I managed to reach the oxygen cylinder from the back. I kept blowing the horn and also kept the front light and indicator of the car on.  The oxygen cylinder that I was carrying could last for 12 hours. I told them these types of incidents are very common in Khardungla pass. After waiting for 7 hours, I heard something moving over our car. It was sound of the bulldozer. On the second attempt, the head of the bulldozer hit a part of the vehicle after which the rescue team was able to trace us. By that time, I started feeling dizzy and fainted. But I clearly remember that till I was conscious everyone in the car was alive,” he said.

Talking to media, SSP Leh Dr. Sunil Gupta said that in case of accidents, people can dial 100 and inform the police. The police team of the nearest unit will reach the spot for rescue. He added that after this particular incident he had permanently posted three jawans to Khardungla top. “I talked to CMO Leh regarding posting of 4 police personnel and two medical staff with full oxygen facilities at K-Top,” said SSP Sunil Gupta.

Replying to the question that the deceased would have been saved if the rescue team were fully equipped, he said “As soon as we got to know about the accident we informed the medical team at Leh. The vehicle remained trapped for around 9 hours. We started the search operation quickly, but we were not sure about the exact location of the vehicle. After 5 pm, we got to know the name of the driver and the vehicle number by checking the entries at North and South pullu.   The eyewitness was also uncertain if the car had passed or not.”

SSP also said that the health department took the time to reach the spot but they should not be held accountable for the deaths.

“Police personnel who rescued the passengers informed that the oxygen was still on in the car and the temperature inside was too hot. It was due to the joint efforts of Army, GREF (local labours) and police that two were rescued alive. All the passengers were brought in the police vehicle to SNM Leh,” said Sunil Gupta. He requested all the drivers to travel in groups at Khardungla pass.

CMO Leh Dr. P. Wangchuk said that 102 is the number of CMO Office. People can call anytime to inform about accidents.  Doctors and ambulances are ready all the time in cases of emergencies. He added, “We got the information about the accident around 12 pm. Later, EC Health Dr. Sonam Wangchuk called me and said that the accident took place at the other side of Khardungla and instructed me to inform the team of Nubra as it is closer to the spot. The ambulance and medical team along with the doctor kept waiting the whole day on another side of K-Top. We didn’t want to waste time, so we immediately sent a team of a fully equipped pharmacist to the spot without waiting for a doctor,” said Dr. P Wangchuk.

He also informed that the rescue team directed the medical team to go back as the rescue operation has been stopped. By the time he (CMO) came to know that the people were rescued, the medical team had already reached Khalsar. “I called the team back and also sent a medical team from Leh with oxygen cylinders. On the way to K-Top, our team came to know that the passengers were rescued and are sent to Leh in different vehicles.