IAF rescues 21 Britons, one French national

Leh, Aug 8 (IANS) The IAF on Saturday said it rescued 21 Britons and a seriously injured French woman who were stranded in high altitude Leh in Jammu and Kashmir following poor weather.

Braving adverse weather conditions, Indian Air Force helicopters rescued the Britons in two batches and the French woman on Thursday and Friday.

The rescue was “a challenging casualty evacuation from high altitude”, a defence ministry statement said.

The tourists got stranded after all major rivers like the Indus, Nubra, Shyok and their tributaries in Ladakh region started flowing beyond their danger mark following five days of downpour.

The IAF station Leh received a SOS message to rescue the Britons from the Markha Valley, with some suffering from asthma.

Even as rescue sorties were being planned, the crew realized that the “available window for successful search and rescue was narrowing owing to deteriorating weather and the approaching sunset” on Thursday.

The British trekkers had made a temporary “SOS” sign near a rivulet, helping the IAF to correctly identify their location.

Amid deteriorating weather, winds and the sun shadow engulfed the landing site in the narrow valley, making the situation near critical, the defence ministry statement said.

The approach to the selected landing point was restricted with limited manoeuvring space, leaving no margin for error, it said.

The landing area was undulating and rocky and with steep gradient, making landing and take-off a risky affair.

But the helicopters rescued 10 British nationals on Thursday and 11 others the next day.

The French woman had severe spinal injury and broken ribs. She was evacuated to the Leh airfield and then moved to a hospital, the statement said.

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