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Major Srihari Kugaji, caught in Kashmir avalanche, is safe

Belagavi: Major Srihari Kugaji from Belagavi, one of the Army officers stuck in the avalanche that struck central Kashmir, is safe.

Maj. Kugaji belongs to the 115 Mahar Battallion of Territorial Army unit housed at Belagavi Fort. He was among a group of about officers at the army camp in Sonamarg of Ganderbal district of Jammu and Kashmir, where he was posted a few couple of months ago. The bunker in which the group was camping came under the huge heap of snow, following the avalanche.

“We were buried under a heap of snow, about 10 to 12 feet over us, for around three hours from 5.45 a.m. I was alone in one of the shelters. The rescue operations gave a new lease of life to us but we lost another office, Major Amit Sagar,” he said with a heavy heart from another shelter nearby on Thursday morning, adding that there was still heavy snowfall in the area.

He was hit on the head by a steel panel of the structure and fell off his cot. He could not comprehend immediately what happened, even as he found himself packed with snow. He heard only heard a sudden stomping sound. It took a few seconds to realise that his shelter had come under the debris of snow.

As breathing became difficult, he struggled hard and was lucky to find some air flowing in through a small hole. But, he could not move. With great difficulty, he moved his hand and placed his fingers in his mouth to keep his body warm inside. After around three hours, the rescue team took him out and shifted him to a safe shelter, he said.

He said he had spoken to his wife and family members, reassuring them of his safety.

Maj. Kugaji, before joining the Indian Army, was an active member of a group of environmentalists in Belagavi and was instrumental in creating awareness on conservation of biodiversity in and around Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary in the Western Ghats falling in Khanapur taluk of Belagavi district.

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