The efforts to save a youth who remained wedged in a narrow rift on the face of a steep hill at Malampuzha in Palakkad district for over two days will go down in history as one of the longest rescue missions known so far to save an individual in Kerala.
The Indian Army, which took up the mission after the attempts to rescue R Babu did not yield any result the previous day, saved the 23-year-old man in a daring operation on Wednesday morning. The force reached the state after Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan sought its help on Tuesday.
Babu fell into the crevice on the Kurumbachi Hill in Cherad, near Malampuzha, on Monday while climbing to its summit along with two other friends.
The defence force's first attempt was to airlift Babu from the cliff using a Chetak helicopter of the Indian Coast Guard on Tuesday. Though the Chetak, designed for meandering and rescuing in such situations, surveyed the hill on Tuesday adverse weather played spoilsport, forcing the Coast Guard to return.
Then it was decided to deploy the trained men in the army for the rescue mission. “Two units of the Army were called in, one from Bengaluru and another from Wellington in Ooty. They were brought to to the site by the Air Force. The rescuers from Bengaluru were first flown to the Sulur air base (near Coimbatore) in an An-32 aircraft. Apart from the aircraft, MiG-17 helicopters were also kept ready,” a Defence spokesperson said.
The soldiers who carried out the rescue mission belong to the Chennai-based Dakshin Bharat area and the Bengaluru-based Kerala-Karnataka sub-area. Both are para regiment forces trained in mountaineering, rock climbing and rappelling.
As soon as they reached the spot, the army men started the rescue mission without wasting any time. After climbing the hill in the wee hours of Wednesday, their first attempt was to contact Babu and the youth's response gave them big motivation, the spokesperson said. The rescuers told him not to shout and exhaust himself and that water will be brought to him soon.
The armymen decided to take Babu up instead of taking him downhill, a risky affair. Two members of the Madras Regimental Centre - Naik Bala and Subedar Deepak – then rappelled down to the point where Babu was stuck. One of them has summited Mt Everest.
Naik Bala reached Babu around 9.30 am and gave him water and food. Then he was almost physically carried uphill by the two members of this descend team. A medical team of the army offered the youth first-aid as soon as he was brought to the summit of the hill. From there he was airlifted to the BEML's ground in Kanjikode and shifted to the Palakkad District Hospital.
Babu, along with his three friends, had trekked the hills on Monday afternoon. While trekking downhill, an exhausted Babu slipped and fell down the cleft.
Babu suffered injuries to his leg during the fall. The friends' attempts to rescue Babu using vines and sticks went in vain.
Following this, Babu's friends went down the hill and informed the locals and police of the situation.
A unit of the Kerala Fire and Rescue and the Malampuzha police reached the spot by midnight. They were unable to initiate rescue activities due to visibility issues. However, the group stayed nearby to ensure Babu's safety. The team lit flambeaus to keep wild animals away during the night.
Meanwhile, Babu had sent selfies and photographs of the spot where he was stuck to his friends and the police using his mobile phone.