Israelis rescued from snowstorms in India; others remain trapped but safe
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Israelis rescued from snowstorms in India; others remain trapped but safe

Two hikers pulled off mountain after suffering from altitude sickness; rescue organization working to reach remote villages where some have been stuck for a week

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Illustrative: View of the Himalayas, by the Nepalese village of Nagarkot, December 17, 2016. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Illustrative: View of the Himalayas, by the Nepalese village of Nagarkot, December 17, 2016. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Eight Israelis were rescued from a snowstorm in India reportedly after sending out an alert in a handwritten letter that was beamed via cellphone to their parents back home.

Dozens of Israeli hikers have been caught in blizzards in northern India, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement Wednesday.

The early storms in the Himalayas region have cut off roads, electricity, and communication infrastructure, leaving many hikers stranded.

Nine Israelis became trapped last week in the northern village of Chatru, among a group of 30 jeeps, the statement said.

The Israelis were cut off from all communication but managed to send a handwritten letter with a local guide who walked to a point where there was cellphone coverage and sent the letter in a message to their families, according to a Hebrew-language media report.

“We are stuck in a snowstorm which will go on for at least another three days,” Hadashot TV news reported they wrote. “It is important to us to give a message to our parents to not be worried. We ask for your quick help as soon as possible, the snow is getting stronger.”

Concerned parents contacted the Foreign Ministry which alerted the Magnus International rescue organization.

Eight have been rescued, the ministry said Wednesday. The last, who is in nearby Manali, was expected to be reached later in the day, Hadashot reported.

In another rescue a local helicopter plucked two hikers who were stricken with altitude sickness from a remote village, the ministry said.

Media reports said they were in the village of Kurgiakh at an altitude of 4,200 meters (13,780 feet) and used a satellite phone to raise the alert with an Israeli insurance company’s emergency center.

Twenty Israelis were in Kaza, the largest village in the snow-stricken area.

Conditions there are “reasonable,” but Israeli hikers were increasingly pressuring rescuers to come get them before roads reopened, the Foreign Ministry said.

Another nine Israelis are in the village of Sissu, and Magnus is sending jeeps from Manali to rescue them, the statement said.

Magnus said in a statement, “Since Saturday we have been working with the aim of helping dozens of hikers who are in north India, and are maintaining the connection with Israeli groups in the various villages.”

“We stress that at this stage we are working with full force for the swift and secure rescue of hikers who are in life-threatening danger and simultaneously we are taking care of the welfare of hikers who are in safer places.”

Magnus urged hikers to stay where they are and not move from relatively secure locations.

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