SONAMARG: “We were at the mercy of God and had little or no hope of survival. Every passing minute brought death closer and closer. Gradually we were getting physically and mentally numb”. These are the words of Abdul Rafique Lone staying with his relative at Sitkari village of Sonamarg, who miraculously escaped the avalanche due to the timely rescue done by paratroopers of Indian Army. The low drone of a helicopter over the Rafique and his colleagues really gave them the first ray of hope that things were happening and Allah had answered their prayers.
According to Rafique on 22 Feb 2012, Sonamarg witnessed heavy snowfall and strong winds. In late afternoon Sitkari village came under unforgiving crush of a massive avalanche, and they were struck inside with no way to move out.
Rafique further brought out the following “On the morning of 24 Feb 2012 at around 9 O’ Clock 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 ft 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”.
Major Khati from 81 Mountain Brigade, who is a paratrooper, alonwith 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 make shift 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”.