The Telegraph
Thursday , February 20 , 2014
CIMA Gallary

Army rescues Nathu-la tourists

Armymen serve hot drinks to rescued tourists. Picture courtesy defence ministry

Priyam Ghosh and his friends were coming down from Nathu-la to Gangtok on Sunday afternoon when heavy snowfall left them stranded.

An SOS from the group from Howrah and other tourists trapped by snow on their way from the 14,000ft-high pass in Sikkim triggered an immediate rescue operation by the Trishakti Corps of the army, based near the spot.

“A total of 334 tourists, including 106 women and 14 children, in 65 vehicles got stranded around 6km from Nathu-la. More than 150 were from Bengal,” said an officer of the Trishakti Corps.

The armymen got the snow on the narrow mountain load cleared and took all the tourists to the barracks, where they spent the night in warm comfort. The tourists returned to Gangtok the next morning.

“The officers gave us warm beverage and food. The soldiers cooked proper meal with several dishes,” said Sachin Karia, a friend of Priyam.

“The barracks were centrally-heated and the officers provided us with quilts and blankets,” said Priyam, who was attended by an army doctor when he passed out.

The tourists said they would have had to spend the night in the open had the soldiers not come to their rescue. “There were only a handful of huts nearby. So many of us could not have got shelter there,” said Karia.

“It had started snowing when we were in Nathu-la. The weather suddenly turned severe when we started our return journey around 1.30pm. The road got covered with snow and our driver said the tyres would skid, resulting in a dangerous accident, had we moved further,” recounted Priyam.

In another incident on Sunday afternoon, 250 tourists got stranded at a spot called Milestone 17, between Changu lake and Gangtok, after a tourist vehicle tilted precariously because of heavy snowfall. The group could resume journey after an army team, led by Subedar Major K.M. Chandgude, cleared the snow.