Indian soldier rescued after 6 days buried by Himalayan avalanche dies in hospital

Indian students stand and pray near a sand sculpture created for Hanumanthappa Koppad.
Indian students stand and pray near a sand sculpture created for Hanumanthappa Koppad.PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI (AFP) - An Indian soldier, rescued nearly a week after being buried in 8m of snow by a deadly Himalayan avalanche, died in hospital on Thursday (Feb 11) of his injuries, the army said.

Mr Hanumanthappa Koppad was rescued late on Monday after spending six days trapped on the world's highest battlefield after a massive block of ice fell onto his army post.

Troops discovered Mr Koppad, with a faint pulse and suffering from severe injuries, after digging through the snow on the Siachen glacier in the disputed region of Kashmir.

His rescue from the disaster, which occurred 5,900m high in the Himalayas and killed nine of his colleagues, has gripped India, with schoolchildren, priests and Bollywood stars praying for his recovery.

But doctors warned on Wednesday his condition was worsening, saying he was comatosed and his organs were failing to function.

"Doctors declared him dead around 11.45am," Indian Army spokesman Rohan Anand told AFP.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had visited Mr Koppad at his hospital bedside in New Delhi, said his death "leaves us sad & devastated".

"RIP Lance Naik Hanumanthappa. The soldier in you remains immortal. Proud that martyrs like you served India," Mr Modi tweeted.

An estimated 8,000 soldiers have died on the glacier since 1984, almost all of them from avalanches, landslides, frostbite, altitude sickness or heart failure rather than combat.

India and archrival Pakistan are each estimated to deploy around 3,000 troops on the glacier, where winter temperatures plummet to minus 70 degrees Celsius.

The nuclear-armed neighbours fought a fierce battle over Siachen in 1987, though guns on the glacier have largely fallen silent since a peace process began in 2004.

The Kashmir region - of which Siachen is a part - is divided between Pakistan and India but is claimed by both in full.