NEW DELHI —
An Indian soldier rescued after being trapped for six days under about 10 meters of snow in the high Himalayas in Indian Kashmir died Thursday, according to army officials.
Hanamanthappa Koppad and nine other soldiers were buried under a wall of ice on February 3 when a massive avalanche hit their army post at the Siachen Glacier, which lies along the line of control that divides India and Pakistan. It is known as the world’s highest battlefield.
While the other soldiers died at the scene, rescue teams found that Koppad had, against impossible odds, managed to survive – probably due to an air pocket. Doctors and experts described it as a miracle when he was pulled out late Monday.
He was brought to a hospital in New Delhi, where doctors described his condition as extremely critical, saying he was in a coma and suffering from multi-organ failure.
Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi tweeted that Koppad's death had left the country sad and devastated: "RIP Lance Naik Hanumanthappa. The soldier in you remains immortal. Proud that martyrs like you served India."
Tributes to the soldiers also poured in from many on social media.
The story of his miraculous survival had gripped India, with many praying for his recovery, including school children and Bollywood stars. The Indian media called him “Siachen’s hero.”
Koppad’s story has turned the spotlight on the treacherous conditions for soldiers serving on the Siachen Glacier, which is patrolled by both the Indian and Pakistani armies. Not only do they have to combat freezing temperatures, they have to also contend with deadly avalanches and snow storms. Frostbite and asphyxiation afflict many who serve there.
The harsh weather has claimed the lives of more than 850 soldiers, according to the Indian Army, since the glacier was occupied in 1984.