Lukla is the gateway for the Everest region. It is now serving as the rescue base. All those rescued from the Everest are being brought here. Lukla has about 60-70 metre airstrip and thus known as the world’s most dangerous airstrip to land and take off.
A steady stream of private choppers descends on the helipad in Lukla, the first outpost before one heads deep into the Everest region. An avalanche has devastated the Everest base camp, five days trek from Lukla. With each chopper landing at the base, there come fresh tales of survival, escape, death and devastation at the base camp flattened by the avalanche.Some houses have been flattened on the route to the base camp at places like Namche Bazaar and Dingboche, but the damage to human life has been more at the base camp. “I flew there soon after sunrise a day after the quake. There were a lot of injured people parked inside their tents. I saw some bodies whose legs were protruding out from the snow. We did close to 50 sorties on that day with a single chopper to ferry back as many rescued as we could. There are no injured up there now. Only people waiting to be rescued and dead bodies” says Ashish Sherchan, a pilot with Simrik Air, one of the operators undertaking rescue missions from the Everest base camp to Lukla.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>(Image credit – Sai Manish dna)Lukla is considered one of the most dangerous airports in the world with a precipitous fall at the end of the runway. Yet everyday many single engine planes connect this gateway to the Everest region to the rest of the world. dna is the only Indian newspaper to have a correspondent in the Everest region close to the site of the tragedy at the Everest base camp.Around 19 bodies were recovered till Sunday from the camp. On Monday another 8 bodies were flown in. Among the dead was an Australian lady doctor, a Chinese national and many sherpas who accompanied trekking expeditions in droves as porters and guides. Most of the injured people have already been rescued. Accounts of those who have returned suggestthat, mountaineers above the base camp were unaffected by either the earthquake or the avalanche.Pooja Doke, 26, an automotive engineer from Australia was one of the lucky ones who survived and made it back to Lukla. “When I was hiking back from the base camp, the quake struck at Lobuche. I trekked back with my guide and we walked through numerous landslides along the way. I walked another seven hours at Periche” says Doke. It took another day to rescue Pooja. For the hours she spent at Periche, Pooja helped doctors treat those who were severely injured in the avalanche.(Image credit – Sai Manish dna)A group of 5 Indian Police Service (IPS), 3 Indian Administrative Service (IAS) & one Indian Forest Service officer camping at the base camp were also among the ones caught in the avalanche. Suhail Sharma, an IPS officer of the Maharashtra cadre was camping at the Everest base when the quake induced avalanche struck. Immediately after landing at the helipad in Lukla, Sharma heaves a sigh of relief after being told that he would be immediately ferried to Kathamandu and onwards to Delhi. Sharma recounts the ground shaking violently at the base camp and then something more than an avalanche striking the camp. “I felt like as if a part of the mountain fell down. My tent was gone and all I was left with were my sunglasses” recounts Sharma.He started walking down the gradient with his IAS colleague Saroj (second name not known). Along the way they encountered many dead bodies, some whose clothes were sticking out of the ice. “There was a Chinese girl staying next to us. She was dragged almost 50 meters with her tent. We found her with her head smashed on a rock. We weren’t rescued. We survived. It was a nightmare” says Sharma