The entire state of Kerala watched in awe as a combined effort of the Indian Army and the National Disaster Response Force made the daring rescue of a 23-year-old trekker trapped in a cavity on the steep slopes of the 1,000-metre-high Kurumbachi Hill near Malampuzha in Palakkad district.
In the early hours of Wednesday morning, the Army personnel, trained in mountaineering, hoisted Cherattil Babu from the crevice in the rocks where he had been trapped for nearly 45 hours without food and water, to the top of the hill using safety ropes. To replenish Babu's health before he was brought up, he was fed and supplied with water.
The video shows a tired but beaming Babu thanking the Army and the NDRF after his rescue. “Thank you to the Indian Army for bringing me up (to the hilltop),” he said, planting kisses on the cheeks of the personnel. Later, he was airlifted in a helicopter to the Kanjikode helipad and transferred to a hospital in Palakkad.
Babu, who hails from Cherad, was climbing Kurumbachi Hill with two friends on Monday. During his descent, Babu slipped and fell into a deep gorge on the side of the hill. He had not sustained any major injuries, except for a bruise on his knee. He climbed into a fissure that was just big enough for him to sit in. He then provided images of his whereabouts to his family and friends, who alerted authorities. His phone battery expired afterward, cutting off all communication with him. Babu's predicament was rendered even more precarious by extreme weather conditions and the presence of wild creatures such as elephants and leopards in the area.
Although the local police and fire department were initially dispatched, due to the rugged and steep nature of the area, it was determined that rescuing Babu would be difficult. Following that, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan asked the Army's and Air Force's assistance in conducting the rescue effort. Attempts to airlift him directly from the rock fissure were undertaken at first, but it looked hazardous. Later that morning, Army mountaineering experts ascended the slope and dropped two of their soldiers down into the fissure, using safety ropes, to provide food and drink to Babu. After that, he was dragged up using ropes in a difficult operation. The mission involved more than 75 Army, Air Force, and NDRF soldiers.
Babu's mother, who had been waiting at the base of the hill since Monday night without sleep or food, told local TV network Mathrubhumi after the rescue, “I had complete confidence that my son would be rescued alive. Army personnel, people of my village, those of the police and fire brigade, all worked together to rescue my son. I am indebted to all of them.”