Chikkamagaluru: Search operations for the two trekkers who went missing in Baba Budangiri Hills were called off on Monday evening after nearly 36 hours, owing to the darkness. Efforts to trace Vivek Gupta and Shashidhar will resume at 10 am on Tuesday. Additional personnel as well as forest officers accustomed to jungle conditions will be part of the operation.
Superintendent of Police Santosh Babu told Deccan Chronicle that search operations for two trekkers who went missing in Baba Budangiri Hills came to a halt at around 7 pm on Monday, due to the darkness. The operations will resume at 10 am on Tuesday and additional personnel will be deployed. Forest officers who are well-accustomed to jungle conditions will also brought into the fray.
Vivek Gupta (31), a lab technician and Shashidhar (27), a software engineer, had arrived with an 11-member trekking team from Hyderabad. Sources said that the group had toured the Mullayyanagiri peak in Chikkamagaluru and descended to trek through Baba Budangiri Hills. The joint search operation by police, forest officials and members of an Adventure Club, lasted through Sunday night, coming to a halt on Monday evening.
The victims had been more daring than the rest and went missing in the Galikere area near Kemmanagundi. The other trekkers conducted a search for Vivek and Shashidhar but were unable to locate them. They then went to the nearest police checkpost near Baba Bundangiri Hills. Officials swung into action and conducted a search party which lasted through the night.
A supervising official said the search operation had been hindered by a thick mist followed by heavy rains. “The ground is also very slippery,” he said. Police have sought the help of nearby villagers to trace the missing trekkers.
Mr Santosh Babu said that there is no mobile connectivity in the Hill range so establishing contact was impossible. Mr Babu said that the trekking team had no permission from the forest department and that they had entered the Hill range on their own. A member of Chikkamagalauru Adventure Club said that venturing out without a guide is always unsafe for inexperienced trekkers.
Chances of survival bleak: Rescuers
It's been more than 36 hours since the two trekking instructors have gone missing in the deep jungles of Bhadra Tiger Reserve. The ecologists working closely at the reserve say that the duo has bleak chances of survival due to the current weather condition and the terrain which is frequented by tigers and other wild animals.
The police team, however, is confident of tracing the trekkers alive as there are a number of estates and houses where the trekkers could have taken shelter. But the locals in Chikkamagaluru who are assisting the rescue operations say that the chances of survival are poor as the area has been receiving heavy rainfall and there are cliffs ranging over thousand metres around the area where the trekkers went missing on Sunday.
“It’s a tough chance. The missing people, who are believed to be instructors attached to an adventure company, did not carry any equipment, except a compass. The duo went to search for a road and they are still untraced. It is insane to venture out into the Western Ghats during monsoon months when the temperatures are below 10 degrees Celsius and the visibility is less than 10 metres,” said Mr D.V. Girish, a senior ecologist from Chikkamagaluru. In 2005, three trekking instructors from Bengaluru went missing near Sakaleshpur and their bodies were found two years later along Kempu Hole river.
“It is learnt that one of the missing people had walked the trekking path a year ago and he risked it by taking people along that track. No trekking is allowed in the Reserve, but many enter the forest from the public area near Baba Budan Giri. This cannot be controlled by anyone. We only hope that the missing duo has got a shelter in one of the estates. As the visibility was very poor we will begin the rescue operation on Tuesday morning," said a police officer from the rescue team.
The adventure community in the city is shocked and demanded that the forest department stop trekking expeditions, which are taken up without permission from the department. “Forest routes in the Ghats often change the way they appear. If it was a summer, there were chances of early rescue, but monsoon months are tougher for survival without the support of locals and people from the forest department," said an adventure instructor from Bengaluru.