Rescue mission to use SAR technology in search for missing mountaineers

SKARDU: A special search and rescue mission will make use of advanced technology to recover missing mountaineer Ali Sadpara and the other two foreign climbers who went missing last week.

Families of three missing climbers have vowed to carry on with a rescue mission despite the inclement weather with the help of sophisticated satellite data to search every inch of the K2 mountain.

“For the first time ever, this team is working with the Iceland Space Agency to review SAR technology not SAT technology -never before used in search and rescue – to cover every inch of the higher elevations of this mountain despite the bad conditions,” a statement said.

The families and friends have set up a virtual base camp to ensure a thorough search-and-rescue effort. The camp has been established by Rao Ahmad, Ali Sadpara’s long-time friend and Sajid Sadpara, Ali Sadpara’s son, along with British-American climber, Vanessa O’Brien, who also serves as Pakistan’s Goodwill Ambassador and summited K2 with John Snorri.

The team has got the support of the ICEYE – a global leader in small satellite synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) technology that produces high-resolution imagery collected through even clouds and darkness.

It said that ICEYE’s slogan ‘every square meter, every hour’ gives the perfect visual acuity to view areas inaccessible to helicopters because of harsh winter conditions and excessive winds,” the statement said.

According to Home Secretary Muhammad Ali Randhawa, the FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared Radar) mission with a C-130 aircraft will be used to find the missing climbers through thermal imaging while ground teams would also follow the path taken by the mountaineers.

The virtual team of family and friends asked the people to understand that a lot of work was going on in the background tracing department and not to worry if helicopters can fly or not fly. “If the weather is good, yes they will fly, but multiple flights have not seen any bodies. We are using more sophisticated technology. Please avoid those rumours that talk rubbish.”

The team has also got additional data from devices the climbers – Garmin, Thuraya, Inmarsat – together with interviews from witnesses to create a time frame of the mountaineer’s locations during their summit bid. “We are grateful for the helicopter flights by the Pakistan Army pilots, who pushed the upper limits during each of these search flights,” they added.

The team also thanked the Canadian filmmaker Elia Saikaly for capturing imagery during these search-and-rescue flights, and (Ret) Lt Col. Hassan bin Aftab, Director of Operations at Pakistan Analytica, who coordinated overall logistics for the search-and-rescue attempts and served as the point person for our families.

They said that none of this would have been possible without the support and assistance of the Chief of General Staff and the Pakistan Army. They thanked the ISPR, Chief of Defence of Iceland, and the Foreign Ministers of Iceland, Pakistan, and Chile.

Freezing temperatures and wind chill, averaging -50 degrees Celsius, and strong winds have made the flight operations next to impossible.

The team believes that the climbers could have built an ice cave or shelter, and if they had sufficient fuel to melt water, it could have extended their lifeline but it depends on how low they made it down on the mountain.

The families have requested the government of Pakistan to continue to provide search and rescue support, weather permitting with a quote of Martin Luther King Jr – “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

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