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This IPS Officer Consoled, Motivated & Helped Rescue 300 Tourists Stuck in Chandrataal 

Indian Masterminds Stories

Situated above 14,100 in the Himalayas, Chandrataal is a lake in the Lahual and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh. It’s a major attraction for tourist all over the year. In the past week around 300 tourists came to see and witness its scenic beauty. However, all their plans got wasted as they were stuck in the region due to heavy rainfalls followed by snowfall for three continuous days. 

In such hard times, there was one officer whose presence gave them hope, and he became their consoler and protector. This person is an IPS officer, SP, Lahaul & Spiti, Mr. Mayank Chaudhary. He faced all the challenges head on with the tourists and left only after every single person was safely rescued.  

During an exclusive  conversation with Indian Masterminds, the officer explained the situation in detail, and how he and his team of around 7-8 police personnel controlled the panic and chaos while waiting for the rescue team to arrive. 

THE TIMELINE 

On 8 July 2023, Mr. Chaudhary and ADC to Governor, Mr. Abhishek S (IPS), had gone for inspection of the Rohtang Pass. At around 3pm there, they got an information that due to heavy rainfall, tourists are stuck in Chandrataal. Immediately, they left for Chandrataal and reached around 6 pm in the evening. By this time, snowfall had started. It continued non-stop till 10 July and reduced to a little bit of snow on the 11th. Three to four feet of snow had covered the whole area. It was impossible to get out and the tourists, who had come prepared for only 1-2 days trek were stuck there. They started to panic and this is the time when Mr. Chaudhary took control. 

After three days of snowfall till 11th July, the roads were cleared on 13th July

He coordinated with all the camp owners to discuss about the issue of food, electricity and water. He said, “We had to manage the situation till the rescue team arrived. I must say that camp owners really supported us and agreed to do as we say. We decided to go for ‘khichdi’ so that the food that was for 2-3 days could extend.” 

Around 300 tourist were stuck in camps with SP Lahaul & ADC to governor

Electricity was managed and they stored supply water as the usual taps were jammed by snow. Between all these, the officer explained the situation to DGP Satwant Atal Trivedi through a satellite phone as there was no mobile network. She immediately briefed the Chief Minister about the situation in Chandrataal.

HEALTH ISSUES & AIRLIFT 

As help was being arranged, the situation in the camps had started to worsen. People were scared as they were unable to inform their family members. On the other hand, many started to have headache, vomiting due to the high altitude. Some elderly couples were facing serious health conditions and were on the verge of collapsing. 

SP Lahual & Spiti Mr. Mayank Chaudhary (first from the right in grey jacket) visited camps & motivated people
People with critical medical condition were airlifted first

So, Mr. Chaudhary took 6-7 officers of the Chandrataal checkpost and started visiting each camp and provided them with basic medicines. The situation went out of hand when oxygen levels of 2-3 sick persons dropped to 31. Seeing the gravity of the situation, the officer immediately called the DGP and on 11  July, an air force chopper came to airlift the critical patients along with the elderly ones.

Mr. Chaudhary said, “There were 7-8 people in the age group of 60-80. They needed immediate medical assistance.” Although the chopper came, there was no helipad. So the officer coordinated with the pilot to keep it above the ground. He with his team members lifted the patients up towards the chopper. It was really difficult for them as the heli was scattering snow onto them and at one point, they were unable to breathe as snowflakes went inside their mouth and nose. Anyhow they managed to send the critical ones in the chopper and coordinated with DC, Kullu to provide medical assistance when it landed in the Bhuntar airport.

COMMUNICATED WITH FAMILIES 

This was not all. Each tourist was having some health issue or the other and due to the melting of snow, the mats in the camps were wet, and so were their socks and clothes. There was no way to dry them. On the other hand, some were going to miss their flights and were worried about their office and family. Here, the officer and team made a list of all tourists and their contact numbers were shared with the police control room in Shimla, to inform their families. From the list, they got to know that most were from Gujarat, Maharashtra and MP. There were a few girls who were travelling solo. Their families were informed that SP and ADC were physically present on the site and there was nothing to worry about. Meanwhile, to distract everyone, the officers even arranged some fun activities, but that worked only for a while. The stranded people were soon back to their worries.

The officer left the sight only after every single person was rescued safely

It wasn’t possible to airlift everyone and so the only way was to get the road cleared. Mr. Chaudhary conveyed this to the DGP and Dcs of Kully and Kaza. All of them started work but nothing concrete happened till the 12th. Everyone stranded in Chandrataal started losing their patience. The Chief Minister was again informed and he asked the Revenue Minister to go to the site. This made a difference and the administration started to take road clearance seriously. 

A DAY OF BRIGHTNESS

Finally, on 13 July, the rescue team and the minister reached Chandrataal around 2:30 am. They brought a ray of hope for everyone. SP Chaudhary did a meeting with his team and the minister and made an evacuation plan. There were around 27 vehicles of rescue teams and few cars of tourists and 30-35 bikes. “It’s not advisable to let any vehicle go in the snowy roads. Only 4/4 vehicles or camper vehicles with chain can be used on such roads,” he said.

They had only one day to rescue as IMD had forecast bad weather from the 14th again. So, the big vehicles were sent first, which created a patch. They took risk and in the second round, they sent some Innovas and scorpios. After that, Santros and Dzires were sent followed by the bikers. 

And, Mr. Chaudhary went last. He said that it was a mindful decision as they could go looking around the road to see if someone was stuck and needed help as there were avalanches in between. All of them reached safely and there was no casualty. Mr. Chaudhary also helped the tourists in guiding how to ask for reimbursement for flight tickets through Civil Aviation and even gave official letters to the employees to show to their employers, explaining the reason for the delay in joining back at work.


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