Two months after the disappearance of two climbers from Arunachal Pradesh, an independent search and rescue team on Monday located their belongings from a mountain located close to the Indo-China border, said a family member of one of the missing mountaineers.
Tapi Mra, who climbed Mt Everest in 2009 and became the first person from Arunachal Pradesh to achieve the feat, and his deputy Niku Dao, have been missing since August 17 while attempting to climb the top of Chiumo, 6,890 metres above sea level, near the McMahon line. The government’s efforts to find them were formally canceled last month.
“The team reached Camp II of the mountain on Monday and found the tent, sleeping equipment, and other belongings like GPS, mobile phone, radio set, clothes, and the national as well as Arunachal Pradesh flags,” Yatok Mra Nilo, sister of Tapi Mra, told journalists in Itanagar on Monday.
According to her, the 13 members of the search and rescue team, composed of local climbers and porters, were informed of the whereabouts of the two climbers’ belongings by satellite phone. However, they were not able to find Mra and Dao, who were either buried under deep snow or fell into a crevasse. More details are expected when the team reaches Seppa, the headquarters of the Eastern Kameng district.
Mra’s family members and the Tagin Cultural Society blamed the East Kameng district administration, especially deputy commissioner PA Polumatla for lack of coordination and delay in sending local mountaineers for search and rescue, which they feel could have saved Mra and Dao.
Due to the remote location of the mountain and lack of communication network, information about the missing mountaineers reached Seppa, East Kameng District Headquarters, on August 27, 10 days after they disappeared at an elevation of about 15,000 feet.
A foot search which started on September 1 was interrupted six days later due to inclement weather. Later, a team of military climbers and two local climbers were dropped at base camp on 11 September in search of the two climbers.
But with no trace of them even at Camp II and the weather deteriorating, which could have put the lives of the entire team at risk, the entire operation was called off on September 22 by the East Kameng district administration in consultation with the army officials involved in the search and rescue.
“We are totally dissatisfied with the search and rescue efforts. While the entire operation apparently lasted for 20 days, the real search at CAMP 2 took place only for one-and-a-half hours,” said Nilo.
“The deputy commissioner has to answer why he didn’t allow local mountaineers, who wanted to conduct search operations independently, to go ahead. If permission had been given earlier, the search parties could have found them alive. We demand the DC’s suspension,” she added.
East Kameng deputy commissioner PA Polumatla stated that the district authorities have no information about the recovery of Mra and Dao’s belongings by the search and rescue team.
“I don’t have any intimation about such recovery and wouldn’t comment on the accusations made by Mra’s family members about the efforts we had put into search and rescue both the mountaineers,” Polumatla said.