Hyderabad: Mountaineer and a role model for climbers all over the world Malli Mastan Babu has been missing since March 24 from the Andes Mountains.
Unfortunately for this Indian mountaineer, the local government there is caught up in rescue operations of a recent flash flood in the area and it is now left to a group of friends, relatives and well-wishers to gather resources for the search.
Mr Babu’s friends haven’t lost heart as they recall the resilience that this Nellore native has shown in the past.
When Piyush Bajpai, a batchmate from NIT Jamshedpur, heard of Mr Babu going missing on March 25, he immediately rallied for support and funds to help the rescue operations.
“Malli has a huge support structure across all the four educational institutes he studied in — IIM Calcutta, IIT Kharagpur, NIT Jamshedpur and Sainik School Korukonda; so raising funds for the rescue wasn’t a problem at all. We have already initiated two on-ground, on-foot teams that are undertaking the search operations,” informs Mr Bajpai.
Mr Babu made last contact on March 24 with Argentina’s Hernan Augusto Prajon, who is leading the rescue group now.
Meanwhile, in Chile sits Krupkar Choudary, an Indian techie and a mountaineer who is also running the Facebook page, “Rescue Malli Masthan Babu”. Mr Choudary is working with local rescue teams, the Indian embassy and a team in India.
Choudary is also among those who have been inspired by Mr Babu’s life and achievements. A software engineer working in Polaris Software Lab, Chile, Mr Chaudary is also mountaineer. “I have not met Malli in person, but I was following him on Facebook. He is my role model,” he says.
Giving us a glimpse of the progress at Chile, Mr Choudary says, “As of now, the aerial search has not started, we are trying to find a helicopter which can fly above 6,000 m. We have collected funds to pay for the helicopter rescue. As of now we have $5500 for the rescue team and have collected around $45,000 to pay for the helicopter services. The charges for the helicopter per hour is $2,200 plus 20 per cent taxes.”
Mr Choudary is currently trying to find a helicopter that can “start the search ASAP”. “We are planning to use the helicopter for 24 hours with the current funds we have,” he adds, “And based on how the search goes, we might extend the hours.”
Back in India, Mr Babu’s friends are hoping that he will be found in 12 to 14 hours.A very optimistic Mr Piyush says, “We need to go above 6,000 m, which is not easy for commercial planes. We are roping in some private organisations along with the local government’s help for the rescue. The hope is that he will be found within 12 to 14 hours.”
Explaining his rationale, he adds, “You do not know Malli like we do. Trust me when I say, he is alive. All this is not new to him. He has survived on limited resources before and always travelled on shoestring budgets. He may just be in a place where he can’t communicate, that’s all.” Mr Choudary’s source for updates from the ground is a local called Joey Shonka. Mr Shonka told Mr Choudary: “Looks like a lot is going on... Chile is a disaster zone and all the passes are closed... The Chilean government is rescuing contractors from the border station of Maricunga."
In another message sent to Mr Choudary, Mr Shonka revealed: “There was a lot of destruction in those areas and a lot of people are missing right now. I saw three tankers full of sulfuric acid sitting in the middle of the river. There is a military curfew in all of the towns and no one can be out after 9 o'clock.”...